Before the COVID-19 pandemic, MedTech experts were already talking about a digital revolution in healthcare. Coronavirus seems to have given a great push to digital health, forcing everyone’s hand to adopt new technologies and to innovate their way out of this public health emergency. Let’s see what medical technology trends experts predict for 2021!
With the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has proven to be a disruptive year for all industries. By all accounts, even once vaccination is widely available, we will continue to feel its ripple effects in various parts of our lives – and that includes the economy. One industry sector, however, whose development the pandemic could actually have benefited is digital health & medical device development.
In addition to ongoing research and development and the application of new technologies in the context of healthcare, the pandemic has helped spur new areas of research. Here’s what experts and developers of medical technology expect to see in digital health in 2021!
Read our previous annual MedTech reports:
The number one health tech trend we have to keep an eye out for in 2021 is something the pandemic had a direct impact on this year: the growing use of remote medicine. Prior to COVID-19, the greatest concern about telemedicine was patient adoption. Simply put, patients had shown preference to meet doctors in person rather than by way of telehealth solutions. The pandemic has radically transformed that, and experts believe that will open up a bright future for telemedicine.
According to HHS data, there was a great uptick in telehealth adoption in the United States this year. In February (that is, before the public health emergency) about 0.1% of Medicare primary care visits were provided using telehealth. By April, that percentage rose to 43.5%! With patient adoption clearly underway, experts believe remote medicine is here to stay even once this pandemic is over, and the telehealth industry is set to grow to over $185bn by 2026.
Three-dimensional bioprinting combines cells, growth factors, and various biomaterials to grow “living” tissues. Because these tissues mimic the behaviour of actual living systems occurring in nature, their use can greatly simplify research. And that’s just the current state of the technology: bioprinting researchers are already looking for ways to print implants, devices, and even entire organs. Its current ability to cut the costs of pharmaceutical research could help 3D bioprinting build and sustain a pathway to becoming a revolutionary health technology in coming years.
AI is, seemingly, everywhere – and the world of healthcare is no exception. In fact, COVID-19 seems to have given health AI a boost in 2020. In last year’s forecast, we mentioned the applicability of Artificial Intelligence in monitoring an identifying epidemics. Fast forward to 31 December 2019: the AI-driven algorithm of Canadian health monitoring company BlueDot sent the first warning about the coronavirus outbreak – about a week before the WHO or the CDC!
AI is already being applied in various areas of healthcare, including vaccine development, simulation-driven drug discovery, thermal screening, and diagnostics applications. In 2021, we expect to see a wide array of AI-powered digital health solutions emerge. In addition to health technology, data-based and AI-driven prediction will also likely be used by more and more insurance companies to better identify risks and further optimize the plans they offer.
Research into healthcare applications of nanotechnology include a wide array of solutions: nanomaterials and devices (including nanorobots), biocompatible nanoparticles, nanoelectronic biosensors, etc for diagnosis, drug delivery, or other purposes. Nanotechnology is already booming, with global funding increasing by 40-to-45 percent annually.
As healthcare goes increasingly digital, connectivity will become a key attribute to more and more medical devices and other pieces of healthcare technology. While the connected nature of these devices (and the safety of all the data they share) poses challenges to developers, it also opens up never before seen opportunities. The pandemic situation has experts wondering whether (and how) smart cities and the general Internet of Things can tie in with connected medical devices to monitor health data and to prevent outbreaks of future pandemics – another possible area of development in 2021 and beyond.
As health tech innovation accelerates, future-minded MedTech developers are looking to modernize their development toolsets. Find out how a department of Medtronic was able to go Agile without disrupting their processes: