Few fields are as innovative or impactful as technology and healthcare, where new discoveries are being made daily. Yet when you combine the two fields, the opportunity for life-changing innovations is seemingly endless. Using the latest technology, healthcare organizations can operate more efficiently and offer better care. Here are five ways they are doing just that—and five medical device marketing trends you’ll want to watch.
Surgeons and their teams have been using robotics for some time now. First, it was the Gamma Knife and CyberKnife systems. These noninvasive, robotic delivery systems deliver radiation therapy to treat cancerous and noncancerous tumors in especially sensitive or difficult to reach areas, such as the brain. Next, surgeons used collaborative robots like the da Vinci surgical robot. This allows surgeons to perform laparoscopic, minimally invasive surgeries in delicate areas like the abdomen.
Today, robots are used to help doctors treat patients in a variety of surgical procedures and assist with post-surgical rehabilitation. Beyond that, they are used to automate research laboratories and help disinfect hospital and clinic rooms—an even more pressing need in the time of COVID-19.
The newest trend in medical robotics is nanotechnology or microbots. These barely-there bots can range from 1 millimeter to about the size of a cell. One researcher, Dr. Kang Liang from the University of South Wales in Australia, is working on programmable microbots that are small enough to enter capillaries in the human body. Once there, these bots can repair damaged tissue or attack dangerous bacteria or diseases, including cancer. The ultimate goal? To package the microbots in pill form, so a patient needing treatment only needs to swallow a pill and the programmable bots begin correcting the issue, to promote healing.
2. Telemedicine and telehealth
Researchers also see robotics playing a large role in another trending area of healthcare: telehealth and telemedicine. While the two may sound similar, there are distinct differences. Telehealth covers the broader scope of remote healthcare services, including non-clinical services, such as provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education, in addition to clinical services.
Telemedicine, on the other hand, refers specifically to remote clinical services. It can help make healthcare more accessible, cost-effective, and increase patient engagement. Three common types of telemedicine are:
Patients and physicians communicate in real-time, via videoconference or web portal, while maintaining HIPAA compliance.
Providers can share information with other providers for complementary care. One example is a provider collecting clinical information, such as laboratory reports, and then sending it electronically to another site for evaluation.
Remote patient monitoring
Also known as Remote Patient Management or RPM, this technology allows providers to collect medical and other health data from individuals and electronically transmit the information to other providers for assessment and recommendations. Data may include blood sugar or blood pressure levels. It’s a helpful tool for people of all ages and conditions, including expectant mothers.
Telemedicine has been hailed as a boon for connecting providers with patients in more rural areas who don’t have larger healthcare systems in close proximity. With this, people can get top-level care no matter their geographical location. And with social distancing now the norm given the COVID-19 pandemic, advancements in medical robotics and telemedicine are both very timely and very welcome.
3. Wearable health devices
Given the proliferation of smartwatches (Apple, Garmin, Samsung to name a few), and other health monitoring devices like Fitbits, “wearable health devices” may not seem like a new trend, but hear us out.
There is a massive trend of people wanting to monitor their own health, and they want to do more than just count steps. People are more comfortable with using mobile devices and technology to track their health information, from heart rate, oxygen consumption, and body-fat ratio. In fact, they want more personalized options, which is why health-tech companies are innovating new products to keep up with this demand. One of the latest developments in wearable health devices is biosensors.
Wearable biosensors are gaining a lot of clinical interest due to their potential to provide continuous, real-time physiological information via noninvasive measurements of biochemical markers in fluids like sweat, tears, saliva, and even interstitial fluid—the fluid that helps bring oxygen and nutrients to cells and removes waste. Thanks to their ability to collect such varied and minute data, medical researchers are optimistic that these biosensors may be significantly effective in timely prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and control of diseases. When the time comes, will you go with the Apple biosensor or are you Team Garmin?
4. Artificial intelligence
Similar to wearable health devices, artificial intelligence (AI) is not new, but the technology is advancing faster than ever. AI and machine learning is transforming healthcare as it’s being used to diagnose conditions and diseases, identify trends, and create efficiencies in both the research laboratory as well as the exam room.
The FDA believes AI and machine learning has great potential to provide even more personalized medicine and targeted treatments for patients. Because of this, they introduced a set of guidance to encourage innovation in developing digital health tools, but also ensure proper oversight as these advances are made.
For more insights, check out our article discussing what’s coming for AI in medical devices.
5. Extended Reality: AR, VR, and mixed reality
Thought virtual reality was just for video games and movies? Think again. “Extended reality,” including virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality, have found a home in healthcare. According to BIS Research, the global market for augmented and virtual reality in healthcare is expected to grow to $11.4 billion by 2025. These tools are often used in surgical simulation, as well as routine patient care.
Virtual reality, or VR, has been used during psychological therapy and has shown promise in treating depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even eating disorders. VR works by using content designed to aid exposure therapy, in which patients are exposed to anxiety-inducing stimuli in a safe, controlled environment. During this treatment, patients learn that the “threats” they perceive are not actually dangerous, so their reactions are more appropriate for the situation.
Augmented reality, or AR, helps surgeons, their patients, and even patients’ families. AR allows surgeons to gather data in 3D format, which aids in surgery planning and patient treatment. It also helps providers explain complex medical situations and procedures to patients and their family members. Additionally, AR has the potential to enhance how physicians conduct medical and scientific research.
Mixed reality, or MR, works in a similar fashion as AR. It’s an extension of augmented reality that allows real and virtual elements to interact in an environment. Using MR, physicians can gather key imaging information and visual complex medical data, both before and during procedures. It’s another way to help providers deliver efficient, exceptional care.
Penrod’s final take
The future of healthcare is here, and it is powered by technology. AI and telemedicine, once more conceptual than practical, are becoming standard tools to reach people who are safely social distancing for health. Even innovations that have a longer history, like virtual reality and wearable health devices, are evolving to meet the needs of providers and patients alike. We can’t be certain what’s next, but you can be certain Penrod will have the key information you need to stay ahead of the curve.