From IoT to new Artificial Intelligence systems. From personalization to Mixed Reality and blockchain. Here are the new technology trends in healthcare industry.
“Digital Health” is an expression that you will hear more and more often in the coming months and years. It’s an expression that indicates the implementation of digital technologies to improve the health and well-being of all of us, as individuals, but also as a community.
We are talking about a market sector that is relatively new, and with a value that was already hitting important figures by the end of 2019: $101.4 billion, according to Research and Market estimates. Again, according to the estimates of the same institute, this share will more than double by 2023, reaching $223.7 billion (psmarketresearch.com). In turn, Global Market Insights forecasts a total share of $379 billion by 2024 and $639 billion by 2026 (gminsights.com). In short, what is evident from these numbers is that we are talking about a sector in impetuous growth, which still shows huge margins.
Healthcare industry: new technology trends to consider
In this previous blog post, we focused on the importance of this sector, how it is organized, and what moves within it. Now, instead, we want to look ahead and broaden the focus on the technology trends in healthcare industry.
We have divided them into 6 key points, which we present below.
1. IoMT – That is, the “Internet of Medical Things”
One of the widest and most promising frontiers of the digital world is the IoT (“Internet of Things”), the idea of bringing our everyday objects (but also the means of production) into the Internet: from the house to the factory, from cars to entire cities (the so-called “Smart Cities”). And among these “objects”, an increasingly important role is now played by healthcare devices. So much so that a new acronym has been coined: IoMT (“Internet of Medical Things”).
We are talking about devices that are largely wearable (but also ingestable or injectable under the skin) useful for monitoring the state of our health and well-being in real time: from the now widespread pedometers, to devices to monitor the heart rate, to tools for analyzing the quality of our sleep, up to more specific devices dedicated to monitoring chronic diseases, such as diabetes (think, for example, to those designed by Roche).
The fields of application of IoMT are multiple, and to a large extent they are all still to be explored. A key point is the convergence between these wearable devices, dedicated apps (increasingly tailored), and telemedicine tools.
Let’s close this point with some very significant numbers. If the market for wearable medical devices was valued at $7.8 million, the estimates for 2023 are that it will exceed $27 million. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) would therefore be as much as 33.3% (globenswire.com).
2. All in the wake of Google
A great way to guess what will happen in the future is to follow the moves of the big tech companies. Among these, Google certainly has a leadership role.
So where is the Menlo Park giant heading? Where is it investing? In many fields, of course, but it’s also making a significant, long-term investment in the healthcare sector. This isn’t necessarily new.
In 2014, Google launched two products: Google Fit (a health tracking platform) and Google Wear (a version of the Android operating system designed specifically for smart watches and wearable devices). But that’s not all. Its DeepMind unit is applying the most advanced Artificial Intelligence systems in the field of digital health. Then there’s Verily, another Google subsidiary (through the Alphabet parent company), entirely dedicated to the Life Sciences. Or Calico, which deals specifically with issues related to aging (always in the Alphabet galaxy).
The new Google Health unit now has 500 employees, and it is among the most dynamic (and best funded) of the entire group.
3. Artificial Intelligence at the service of health
Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, recently said that the healthcare sector offers the greatest and most promising potential for exploiting Artificial Intelligence systems over the next five to ten years (cnbc.com). Again, we are talking about a very wide range of applications.
First of all, there is the increasingly precise and dynamic interpretation of data coming from wearable devices. Such an interpretation must be, at the same time, both personalized and addressed to large numbers. In short, from the study of signals related to the health and well-being of a single individual, to the analysis of very large sections of the population, in order to have information on the incidence of certain diseases in certain places and in relation to certain lifestyles, for example.
Then there is the application of Artificial Intelligence to hospital diagnostic tools: an implementation that has already made important steps forward. It has already shown to reduce the margins of error.
AI systems will also make it possible to monitor, control, and also prevent epidemic waves. A very topical issue, of course (itu.int).
On the opposite front, one of the greatest opportunities provided by Artificial Intelligence is to achieve a truly tailored and personalized medicine. This is what we will talk about in the next point.
4. Healthcare tailored to the patient
One of the most interesting technological trends in healthcare industry is undoubtedly personalization. It’s a trend that could radically change the world of health but also the well-being of each of us.
First of all, the goal is to aim at a “precision medicine”, calibrated on the characteristics of individual patients, their behaviors, their habits and lifestyles, and personal risk factors. In this sense, there is no better ally than digital. Healthcare devices make it possible to collect a large amount of data on individuals, data that is in-depth, dynamic, and available in real time. And from this information you can design personalized treatments and therapies.
Of course, all of this must include a very high attention to privacy and cyber-security issues.
But that’s not all. Personalization is also the keyword for a new dialog between users and manufacturers of healthcare devices. As well as between individuals and pharmaceutical companies, but also between patients and healthcare facilities. Where do we start again? Back to digital, of course. Collecting data on individuals, in fact, allows you to set up a one-to-one, user-friendly, interactive, and omnichannel communication flow. All of this is possible without lengthy, unnecessary complications and without breaking down the distance and coldness that has been typical of this type of relationship.
We are not talking about a distant future. There are companies specializing in personalized Customer Care Management services, such as Doxee that have already been active in this field for years.
5. Mixed Reality: no longer science fiction
Under the label “Mixed Reality” we will include Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) systems. Such technologies are cutting edge, and their applications are beginning to offer the first powerful results also in the field of healthcare.
Grand View Research estimates that this sector will have a market value (for the healthcare sector alone) of around $5 billion by 2025 (grandviewresearch.com). A very important figure indeed.
But what are the possible applications? There are many, and many of them are already bearing interesting fruit. There are experiments that involve the creation of simulated environments, which, for example, are useful for the treatment of psychiatric diseases, such as post-traumatic disorders (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov). But virtual reality is also used for training doctors and nurses, immersing them, at zero risk, in very complicated surgical situations, which can then be presented in “real life” (digitaltrends.com).
The most avant-garde operating rooms have already been implemented Augmented Reality systems, which provide additional information to operators; digital information that overlaps with (so to speak) the physical environment where you move (jamanetwork.com). We are then studying applications, also of Augmented Reality, which will facilitate dialog between doctor and patient, especially in the sensitive moments when patients describe symptoms or when doctors describe treatments or therapies.
In short, as you can understand, the fields in which these new technologies will bring valuable contributions are all still to be explored.
6. The opportunities of Blockchain
Without getting too technical, we can say that blockchain is a digital register that is distributed, decentralized, maximally secure, and unchangeable. In healthcare, the applications of blockchain can relate to the storage and sharing of patient data and clinical databases, in a way that is very functional, transparent, and risk-free.
Think, for example, of the need for hospitalization in facilities located in different countries: with blockchain, the risks of misunderstanding are practically zero (mature.com). There are also interesting opportunities for archiving data from clinical trials (outsourcing-pharma.com).
In conclusion: there are many new technology trends in healthcare industry, and we are confident that many more will become more well known in the near future. It is a question of keeping our eyes open and focused on these new opportunities. It is about improving the living conditions of individuals, but also society as a whole.