The role and value of medical technology is increasing by leaps and bounds as healthcare is becoming digital to an ever larger extent. As has been the case for several years, the medical sector is taking advantage of technologies originally developed in other industries, and adapting them to improve and broaden healthcare services.
So what technologies should we expect to see in the digital health market in 2018? How are these technologies going to affect our lives this year? And what does all this mean for developers of medical technology? Read on for our medtech trend forecast for 2018.
Digital Healthcare Revolution
In our 2016 forecast for medtech providers, we have identified a new, integrated, value-based approach to healthcare having a powerful impact on the industry. The move to this new era of healthcare is enabled and boosted by technologies enabling mobile, remote, and virtual care. With increasingly complex IoT-connected devices come the many challenges of data security and compliance.
The following year, our 2017 health industry trend report listed technologies that were set to impact the industry the most: Electronic Health Records, 3D printing, connected wearables, mobile devices, and applications. For medtech developers, changes in the regulatory environment and data security concerns were expected to be the top-ranking challenges of 2017.
So what new and continued tech trends do medical industry experts predict for 2018?
EHR, Mobile, and Wearables: Data-oriented Healthcare Solutions
As in many other industries, data is set to become this year’s buzzword in the digital health market.
Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems are becoming standard in medical care. Mobile apps and wearables are on the rise, monitoring the health stats of users to provide services using the recorded data. Telehealth and telemedicine solutions are gaining traction. The result: previously unheard of quantities of medical data that will be available to improve and extend healthcare services.
As Big Data enables patient data analytics, EHR vendors but also developers of modern health technology (think mobile apps, Apple Watch and other wearables, etc) are expected to invest in innovation to take advantage of all this data.
Real-time monitoring and reporting facilitates the management of value-driven healthcare programs such as MIPS and MACRA (Merit-based Incentive Payment System, and the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act). In addition to measuring outcomes, another opportunity in Big Data is tying in patient data to health insurance providers to encourage patients to take ownership of their healthcare needs.
In late 2017, Qualcomm and United Healthcare have announced their partnership in a national wellness program offering incentives to those meeting daily walking goals tracked using activity tracker devices. Expect to see a lot more similar programs in 2018, with new opportunities opened up by all this aggregated data to enhance patient satisfaction and to optimize healthcare costs.
Big Data, Privacy, and Data Security
With data taking center stage this year and going forward, technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain are expected to greatly expand in the digital health market.
The use cases of AI in healthcare include supporting clinical decision-making, and identifying patient health risk factors in advance. Through image recognition and new avenues of this technology, it could also greatly support diagnostics. 2018 is forecast to be the year when AI first really impacts the healthcare industry, and some experts believe it could bring about a true revolution as its use cases expand.
All this data from clinical and non-clinical sources will need to be protected as it is being shared across platforms to unlock new opportunities in health service innovation. To satisfy this need for privacy and security, blockchain will also find its way into healthcare in 2018.
As the technological backbone of last year’s financial craze the bitcoin, blockchain is the hottest trend right now that is widely expected to revolutionize data security across industry sectors. Following Estonia’s example, experts believe blockchain will be leveraged in more and more countries to enable the scaled, secure sharing of sensitive health data. In other words, blockchain is the fundamental building block that facilitates the use of AI and Big Data solutions in healthcare.
VR and 3D Printing
Perhaps less of a breakthrough, technologies around 3D printing and augmented and virtual reality are still believed to hold great prospects for the medical industry. The 3D printing of tissues could bring a revolution in transplantation, but the use of bio-printed materials is also expected to affect the pharma industry where these printed tissues have the potential to replace animals in product testing.
Meanwhile, augmented and virtual reality are expected to integrate deeper into medical education, enhancing the learning experience around anatomy and surgical procedures.
Challenges for Medtech Companies in 2018
With tons of data, new technologies, and with them, new players shaping the future of the healthcare industry in 2018, medtech companies are facing a variety of challenges.
The regulatory environment is shifting as governments and regulatory bodies are catching up with tech innovation and imposing new requirements on their developers. Even with blockchain gaining traction, cybersecurity is expected to be a continued problem.
As new technologies are being embraced by an increasingly digital health market, traditional players will have to step up their development and foster partnering with tech providers. A growing focus on patient experience forces them to adopt knowledge of services and technologies previously considered out of scope. The fast pace of innovation in the development of medical technology requires a more flexible and forward-thinking approach.
To learn more, join our webinar on 14 Feb 2018: