Healthcare technology trends continue to drive growth in the medical industry. Among 2018 trends, nothing is hotter than the digitization of healthcare.
How fast is this market growing? In 2016, the global digital health market was at valued at $179.6 billion. By 2025, the digital healthcare market is expected to reach $536.6 billion. In other words, we are seeing the birth of a half-trillion-dollar industry. And from the looks of it, we are only getting started.
New trends in healthcare technology are always exciting. From the invention of the x-ray machine to modern 3D MRI scanners, every step forward increases the quality of life for millions.
In this article, we examine the following:
- Emerging trends in healthcare technology
- Future trends to watch in HealthTech
- Hardware and software innovations that will drive growth
Let’s get started.
Medical apps for mobile devices are among the hottest HealthTech trends of 2018. Here are just a few ways they are being used.
Medical Record Accessibility
Beginning this fall, Apple will do something amazing. They will release a new API that will allow 3rd-party apps to access medical records from more than 500 hospitals and clinics. The app will enable developers to create powerful apps that were previously infeasible. Patients and providers will equally benefit from easy access to patient records, even when on the go.
Apps now provide patients with the ability to understand lab work results, investigate drug interactions, and communicate directly with their doctor or nurse.
More significant is the emergence of apps that help patients evaluate their symptoms. Apps such as Caidr can aid patients in determining the severity of their condition. Finally, technology is able to answer the age-old question, “should I go to the doctor?”
One of the hottest technology trends in healthcare is the IoT (Internet of Things). Industries across the board are seeing disruption by smart sensors and smart devices. Naturally, healthcare is one of them. Always open to new technology, the healthcare market for IoT devices is slated to top $409.9 billion by 2022.
By 2021, experts suggest that 40% of all IoT products will be used in the medical field.
Adoption is so widespread that it spawned a new term: IoMT (Internet of Medical Things). Here is what that means to doctors and patients, and to tech companies that want to enter the market.
If you have ever visited the hospital, you have seen staff using laser scanners to scan patient wristbands, medication bottles, IV bags, and so on. Avoiding deadly mistakes means making sure the right patient receives the right treatment at the right time.
Scanners have greatly reduced the frequency and severity of mistakes made by healthcare professionals. Even so, consider these chilling numbers provided by the World Health Organization:
- Your chances of being harmed while traveling by plane are 1 in a million.
- Your chances of being harmed while receiving medical care are 1 in 300.
While some patients are victims of misdiagnoses or flawed medical procedures, many are still harmed because staff fail to track patients, medications, or other “assets.” Even providing a patient the wrong medication is an example of failure to track the medication.
IoMT technology offers a high-tech alternative to barcode scanners. Rather than staff manually scanning patients as they enter the x-ray room, an RFID tag worn by the patient can alert the monitoring system that the patient has been placed under the X-ray machine.
Personal IoMT identifiers can allow the location of every doctor, nurse, and patient to be continually tracked within a medical facility. And staff can identify the location of crucial medical equipment at all times.
If it moves, IoMT can track it. And it is already being used to do just that.
Drug management remains a challenge for medical facilities. With thousands of medications being administered in a typical hospital daily, the opportunity for error is great. But IoMT promises to help healthcare professionals and their patients to virtually eliminate these problems.
Connected medical devices could potentially sound an alert if staff brings the wrong medication into a patient’s hospital room. And IoMT devices embedded inside pills can alert monitoring systems exactly when the patient took the medication.
Sound far-fetched? On the contrary. Late in 2017, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first “digital pill” that does just that.
Smart sensors that monitor vital signs and other health conditions make up a burgeoning market of their own. Research suggests that the biosensor market will exceed $27 billion by 2022. A large percentage of this market will involve not just sensors, but sensors that can think.
The potential for medical sensors that know when to share data is yet unfathomable. Sensors for monitoring glucose, heart activity, blood coagulation, blood gases, and a myriad of other biological processes are nothing new. However, adding IoMT connectivity to them opens a whole new world of applications and benefits.
Big Data and AI
Among the top healthcare IT trends are Big Data and artificial intelligence. While AI seems to be quite able to thrive on its own, Big Data needs AI if it is to be useful. Conventional data processing is simply incapable of sorting through reams of terabytes. AI can sort through the same data fast enough to yield useful information while the data is still relevant.
For this reason, Big Data applications usually include an AI component. Also for this reason, we will consider the two joined at the hip in the following applications.
AI may not be a crystal ball, but it gives medical professionals valuable insight in how to best treat their patients. Unlike any doctor, AI can analyze over 100,000 data points per patient, and can predict which ones are most likely to be readmitted. Predictive analytics can do other things, too, like suggest treatments, detect disease, and even identify genetic factors affecting the patient.
AI Improves Cancer Detection
Cancer remains a major killer. Despite billions spent on research, survival rates for advanced-stage cancers remain dismally low.
But help is on way.
In a recent study, AI medical software was 95% accurate in identifying skin cancer. Dermatologists, by comparison, were only 86.6% accurate in diagnosing skin cancer. That’s 8.4% more patients whose cancer can be treated in early stages.
AI promises hope for millions who, without it, will become statistics themselves.
AI offers one benefit everyone can appreciate. A study by Accenture suggests that AI will save the healthcare industry $150 billion annually 2026.
AI can cut the fat out of administrative tasks, improve the accuracy of diagnoses, and predict which patients will need further care. Each of these feats results in significant cost savings, both for healthcare providers and their patients.
Smart Medical Devices
Like the medical professionals they serve, medical devices are getting smarter by the day. One example is Philips Healthcare’s IntelliVue Guardian Solution. The wearable patient monitoring system tracks patients’ vital signs. Using AI software, the system can predict health crises before they occur, giving doctors a head start in treating the patient.
AI Improves Medical Imaging
Within the healthcare industry, nothing requires more processing power than medical imaging. From 3D panoramic x-rays to whole-body MRI scans, medical images are becoming immensely complex.
Medical imaging technology is advancing rapidly. Fortunately, so, too, is AI technology. AI fills a critical need in medical imaging by processing imaging data. The millions of data points generated by medical scans is analyzed by AI, which identifies abnormalities among normal tissues.
Pharmaceuticals, blood products, transplant organs, and other critical items are sensitive to heat and cold. In most cases, they must also be used within a certain period of time. Ensuring that these items have been handled properly can mean the difference between life and death. IoMT sensors can not only monitor for environmental conditions, but can immediately report when predefined criteria are exceeded.
The question isn’t what IoMT can do for the medical industry. It can do more than you can think of. The question is how soon administrators, insurers, care providers, and patients demand adoption.
Blockchain and Cloud Solutions for Healthcare
Blockchain and cloud technology are being combined to create powerful medical platform solutions. Here are three ways they are being used.
Collaboration is crucial in the healthcare field. The easier medical professionals can share information and work together, the better they can treat their patients.
Cloud services provide cost-effective storage and sharing of large amounts of data. Place that data in a blockchain and you have the perfect medical platform for collaboration between healthcare practitioners.
Patients, today, demand to know what information is in their medical records. And more and more laws give them the right to access that information. Permissioned blockchains make it easy for doctors to share medical records with their patients, while keeping unauthorized eyes out.
Smart contracts are just emerging in the healthcare industry. Yet, they are already getting attention. By automating common transactions between healthcare providers, their vendors, patients, and insurance companies, efficiency of those transactions goes up, while costs come down.
A medical robot might not perform your appendectomy, but one might very well assist the surgeon who does. In fact, the medical robot industry is growing at such a rate that it is expected to top $3.3 billion by 2025.
A medical robot is made up of cameras and articulated robotic arms. Specialized video cameras peer into the area of the body being operated upon. The high-zoom, high-resolution cameras give the surgeon a super-human view of the surgical area. Using any of various attachments, the robot arm can — under control of the surgeon — make incisions, tie sutures, and cauterize blood vessels, among other things.
The robot arm does cannot operate on its own — at least not yet. The functions of the arm are controlled by the surgeon through a control panel or hand controls. Even though the surgeon has to control the robot, software minimizes the minute errors that any surgeon can make. The results are manifold:
The surgical robot can help the surgeon to perform more-precise surgical procedures. Patients benefit by faster recovery time, and a higher quality outcome.
The precision and dexterity offered by medical robots have helped patients experience less trauma than with conventional surgery. Since the surgical procedure involves less healing time, patients can usually go home sooner.
Robots can work through small incisions to access the internal parts of the body. Unlike conventional surgery, a surgical robot allows the surgeon to work beneath the skin and muscle wall, without having to open the whole section of the body. Smaller incisions mean less trauma to surrounding tissues, faster healing time, and less scarring.
Infection is also minimized by not having more of the body cavity opened than necessary.
Reduced Pain and Discomfort
All of the benefits we have mentioned also mean less pain and discomfort. Since the robot minimizes impact to surrounding tissues, pain and discomfort are also minimized.
Digitization of the healthcare industry offers huge ROI potential, and long-term growth.
But you know that.
What you might not know is how to get your company in the game.
Ignite is a leading developer of technology solutions to companies around the world. We operate six world-class R&D labs across Europe, and our development teams work on the bleeding edge of software development.
Whether your foray into the healthcare marketplace is a medical app, or data management solutions for hospitals and clinics, we are your solution to making it happen.
Ignite offers custom healthcare applications development at competitive prices. Why not contact us today for a no-cost consultation?