Medical innovation has undergone a huge transformation lately, driven by personal and portable devices and the ability to integrate them with personal healthcare and information technology systems. We have witnessed tremendous growth in the increased integration of Internet of Things (IoT), wearables and other diagnostics as well as growing integration of information technology, connectivity, access and personalised medicine. In addition, the industry is learning from other sectors about the use of innovative technology platforms and how they streamline processes.
In both established and growing economies, healthcare product evolution and innovation are focused on addressing three problems: ageing populations, high patient volume and the need to build cost effective healthcare. These macro trends have increased demand for more cost-effective solutions and engagement from consumers in healthcare initiatives. In this article we will explore how portable healthcare, big data and the better integration of services will deliver preventative care and population health, as well as build efficiencies and cost savings for success.
Patients are becoming more empowered to monitor and improve their well-being through personal and wearable devices. They also want better and cost-effective healthcare solutions, so the use of tablets and smartphones for health monitoring purposes continues to increase.
We are also seeing growth in remote and virtual monitoring devices owned by healthcare organisations that patients take home for a period of time. These are transforming the way healthcare professionals provide efficient patient care.
The overall medical device market is expected to reach $343 billion by 2021 and is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 4.6% between 2016 and 2021, according to Research and Markets. The medical device connectivity market is maturing too, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 38% until 2020. An ageing population, demand for personalised treatment, and increased availability of healthcare are the major drivers behind this growth. In accordance with this trend, the remote and virtual healthcare industries are anticipated to benefit from this growth.
A growing segment of monitoring devices are available for collecting and tracking data related to general vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure and temperature) or other metrics, such as electrocardiograms (ECG) for those with heart issues or blood sugar for diabetics. For instance, Boston Scientific made breakthroughs in a trial last year for an implant that predicts heart failure a month before it happens and has recently confirmed that new data confirms the HeartLogic Diagnostic enhanced the ability to classify patients at high or low-risk of experiencing a future HF event.
Some of these products not only provide diagnostic monitoring but also apply physical therapy or adjust ongoing therapy of implantable devices. Using Bluetooth and similar technology, caregivers can also track movements of elderly and vulnerable patients. The data is then transmitted to health professionals in facilities to monitor these patients remotely and act on the information received as part of the treatment plan. Soon there could be less of a need for someone to visit the physician’s office.
Interoperability solutions for exchanging patient data across care settings is another technological development shaping healthcare organisations and the way clinicians interact with patients. By including post-acute care in interoperability strategies, healthcare organisations can ensure that critical patient information across all care settings will be connected, providing a more detailed patient picture for more specific treatment plans and improved patient care.
Extending connected solutions to patients who live in remote or rural areas or have transportation issues and would otherwise be challenged to return to the point of care, the physician’s office or hospital is a true game-changer for the industry.
Research has found that between 25 to 50 percent of referring providers are not aware of whether their patients have completed their referrals, while approximately 50 percent of referring and specialist providers do not communicate with each other. The cost of this referral leakage can be reduced by a proper referral network management program that database and consulting companies can help monitor. Hospitals are reportedly starting to make changes in their budgets to identify programs that can help patients receive better care, and save their staff’s time in the process.
Beyond large hospital systems, small-to-mid sized practices also struggle with different workflow requirements with suppliers and other providers that do not necessarily interact. Without an ability to exchange information digitally, the process breaks down, time is wasted, and there are risks that information becomes inaccurate. This may also give patients more flexibility to change if their preferred provider is in a different network.
Traditional healthcare companies generally have been reluctant to adopt some of the fast-moving technology changes, instead choosing to wait for regulatory agency guidance given to these new products and uses along with marketplace acceptance. This has allowed entrepreneurs with smaller companies to open innovation to stakeholders within healthcare.
There is potential for medical device and imaging markets to leverage new technology platforms to reduce development time, save investment costs and lower barriers to market entry. Medical technology design must rely on distinguishing features and market adoptability to ensure it is in-line with global megatrends, with many innovations carrying forth a technology convergence that is prepped for a “smart” world.
This trend is creating an openness to innovation in a highly regulated industry, allowing new technologies and products to be developed by companies outside of the healthcare industry. The likes of Google and IBM, for instance, are investing in technologies and building partnerships to be a part of this growth. Google’s DeepMind now works with the NHS in the UK to provide mobile tools and AI research to get patients “from test to treatment” faster and as accurately as possible.
We are in an age where knowledge spill overs and blending innovation between sectors will become more frequent. Consequently, manufacturers may launch technologies in less-regulated markets in the developing world, where more innovation originates and laws governing the use of such devices isn’t as strict.
Manufacturers will need to be flexible and adopt a new approach to global medical device demand. The way people are responding to and adopting an interconnected way of living gives clues about how they want to approach healthcare. Even so, clear differences between end users, local regulators and quality challenges must be factored into plans for investment and entrance into different markets.