The future of MedTech is here
Emily D’Silva is an experienced digital storyteller, writing for publications including CIO.com, The Next Web, The Culture Trip and The Upcoming. In this article she expands on the theme’s of our ‘Tech Flix’ HealthTech documentary and explains how the future of the sector has already arrived…
For a long time, the healthcare industry has been in need of a complete transformation. And so far, we’ve only scratched the surface of what can be achieved using modern technologies.
Why should you care:
- From rising costs, to an ageing population and increasein chronic diseases, there’s currently a huge strain on the healthcare system.
- Outdated systems and misdiagnoses continue to cause issues for both healthcare providers and patients. To improve accuracy and efficiency in the healthcare sector, there needs to be a wider adoption of digital tools.
- Find out how emerging technologies like wearables, telemedicine, AI and robotics are revolutionising the medtech industry and providing better outcomes for patients.
COVID-19 was a catalyst for the acceleration of evolution and digitalisation in the medical industry. In the face of a global pandemic, medical practices had to adapt in a phenomenally short period of time to deliver the services and solutions desperately needed by the public.
Fast-forward to today, the industry continues to go through a digital transformation. And while there has been good development, there are still many opportunities for diagnostics and treatments to improve even more.
Today’s biggest challenges for the healthcare industry
As the cost of healthcare continues to rise, there are significant health disparities with it being unaffordable for many people around the world. Particularly in low-income and rural areas, many people have unequal access to adequate healthcare facilities and services, leaving them with poorer health outcomes and putting a strain on the healthcare system in those regions.
The most recent evidence and relatable example of this was seen during the pandemic, where 79% of the population in Latin America, Asia-Pacific, North America and Europe combined received at least one dose of the vaccination, while only 58% in the Middle East and 36% in Africa received the treatment.
In addition to rising costs, the fact that there’s an ageing population and an increase in chronic diseases, paired with a shortage of healthcare professionals, also poses a problem. To put it into context, 63% of deaths globally in 2000 were caused by noncommunicable diseases, which increased to 74% in 2019. With a greater number of people being affected by these diseases, there’s greater demand for ongoing care and management.
As Atul Gupta, Chief Medical Officer at Philips IGT, emphasises, “there’s no question that hospital systems around the world are under increasing pressure. Patients are getting older, sicker, and what that means is the workloads are intensifying for physicians and also for the staff”.
Other ongoing challenges like medical errors and misdiagnoses due to outdated systems, insufficient data management or human error continue to have serious consequences, however modern technology is beginning to help to improve accuracy and reduce these errors.
Modern technologies provide ground-breaking solutions
Awareness, implementation and sophistication of digital solutions for the healthcare industry is growing, leading to huge improvements for both healthcare providers and patients.
Here are some ways recent tech innovations are providing improved solutions:
Real-time, remote tracking means earlier detection and prevention of chronic diseases
Smart technologies are increasingly being used for remote patient monitoring. Robotics are helpful for managing patient care, especially for elderly patients or those with mobility limitations, tracking their vital signs, reminding them to take their medication or assisting them with daily activities.
Meanwhile, many people now use wearables to track their own health in real-time, and receive personalised exercise, diet and lifestyle recommendations. These devices typically track the user’s heart rate and sleep patterns, as well as additional factors like blood pressure, the electrical activity of the heart and oxygen levels.
This technology provides an excellent solution to managing chronic diseases, as patients can receive more information and treatment recommendations targeted to their needs. With continuous, remote monitoring, health issues are being detected and acted upon earlier, reducing the need for in-person appointments.
Data collection and analysis improves diagnostic and prediction accuracy
Larger volumes of medical data are able to be analysed quicker by AI algorithms in a way that wasn’t possible before. With AI analysing data from wearables and other medical devices, medical professional scan identify patterns and trends that enable them to provide more accurate diagnoses and predictions, and more effective treatments as a result.
Specifically, detailed data analysis allows healthcare professionals to better recognise patients who might be at greater risk of developing a certain condition, intervene quicker if an issue is detected, and also better predict other potential health issues that might arise in the future.
One example we can see of this in action is at Shoppers Drug Mart (SDM). Yaser Khursheed, Technical Architect at NashTech explains: “Our team helped build a scalable, fault-tolerant and security compliant Data Engineering solution for SDM, while employing the best cloud-native features from Google Cloud Platform 'GCP'.
This solution helped acquire patient interactions in near real-time from 1000+ SDM pharmacy stores, and is used to improve the patient outcome by performing further analytics and predictions on the acquired data. It’s amazing to see a solution delivered under 12 weeks running seamlessly in production for 6+months and helping SDM acquire tons of relevant data without compromising patient privacy”.
Digital tools help to minimise errors and reduces patient risk
Healthcare providers are able to use digital tools such as computerised physician order entry (CPOE) systems to electronically prescribe medication, or make clinical orders for patients. As the smart system alerts providers of any dosing errors or potential issues from prescribing certain medications to patients, it improves patient safety and reduces errors.
UsingAI to analyse patients’ electronic health records also helps identify the most effective treatments for individual patients based on their unique medical histories and characteristics, further reducing the risk of misdiagnosis.
Senior VP at NashTech, Ramaraju Indukuri shares an example: "According to the Congressional report published by CMS in 2021, a mere 13% of patient risk can be explained by known variables like age. This means there is a massive opportunity for providers and insurance companies to significantly improve their patients' lives and reduce overall medical costs, if they can better estimate patient risk, even if only by a few percentage points.
Together with Knoldus, an innovative US based startup and leader in risk management for Medicare Advantage plans, has implemented data analytics and AI to help its customers (providers and insurance companies)improve patient risk accuracy by analysing patient records".
Additionally, advancements in surgical tools, such asrobotic-assisted or smart tools, are helping to improve the precision andsafety of surgical procedures. It reduces the need for invasive surgery and minimises risks or complications, drastically improving the patient outcome by reducing patient trauma, post-operative pain, and recovery time.
Technology facilitates faster solutions for patients
Robotics, among other technologies like AI, are helping to automate and accelerate drug development, reducing both production costs as well as the time to market. OchreBio is one company that applies technology to find the root cause and subsequently develop a solution for liver health challenges like liver disease.
When discussing the drug discovery and development process, co-founder and CEO Jack O’Meara says, “technology makes us way smarter and it also makes us a lot faster at iterating through hypotheses. ”As a result, their drug development has become significantly cheaper and more efficient, meaning they’re able to provide faster, more effective treatments to patients.
Telemedicine also helps to provide patients with faster, flexible access to medical care, which is especially beneficial for people in remote areas that don’t have easy access to a medical facility. Receiving remote medical consultations and treatment is not only more convenient for the patient, but it also reduces the need for in-person appointments and therefore the strain on the medical professionals.
What can we expect to see in the future of MedTech?
There are many opportunities for emerging digital tools to assist the healthcare industry, and make a huge difference to people’s health and wellbeing, as well as our healthcare systems.
To find out more, watch the Tech Flix documentary now.