Developed Countries

Technologies transforming healthcare

Five technologies leading the way – an infographic.

New Tech­nolo­gies in health­care aug­ment body func­tions, sense and track vital signs, sup­port com­plex sur­gi­cal inter­ven­tions, and inform and edu­cate patients. They promise to empow­er patients and health­care work­ers alike, improv­ing and pro­long­ing life for mil­lions and alle­vi­at­ing the eco­nom­ic and orga­ni­za­tion­al bur­dens on creak­ing health­care sys­tems. The medtech indus­try is going from strength to strength, but many tech­no­log­i­cal, reg­u­la­to­ry and com­mer­cial chal­lenges still need to be resolved to pave the way to a health­i­er future.

1. CARE WHEREVER

The remote deliv­ery of healthre­lat­ed ser­vices has proven its rel­e­vance dur­ing the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic. From the pro­vi­sion of med­ical infor­ma­tion and patient edu­ca­tion to the com­plex remote reha­bil­i­ta­tion of stroke patients through gam­i­fi­ca­tion, tele­health answers new and grow­ing con­sumer demands and expec­ta­tions in the health­care sec­tor.

While it reduces the need for in-per­son con­sul­ta­tion, infor­ma­tion and treat­ment can be dis­trib­uted con­ve­nient­ly and effi­cient­ly to a broad­er patient base.

The grow­ing indus­try still needs to answer ques­tions regard­ing reim­burse­ment, patient pri­va­cy, legal issues and dig­i­tal equal­i­ty.

2. LITTLE HELPERS

The health wear­ables mar­ket is boom­ing. Inno­v­a­tive hear­ing aids use AI, track brain and body activ­i­ty, and even ana­lyze social inter­ac­tiv­i­ty – essen­tial for men­tal health and over­all well­be­ing. They are also now near­ly invis­i­ble, improv­ing patient expe­ri­ence.

Accep­tance is impor­tant and aes­thet­ics play a deci­sive role in the suc­cess of wear­ables. Patients do not want to be remind­ed that they are ill.

The indus­try still needs to tack­le data secu­ri­ty issues and tech­ni­cal chal­lenges such as bat­tery life, minia­tur­iza­tion and radio and anten­nae inte­gra­tion in typ­i­cal­ly small, light and ergonom­i­cal­ly sound devices.

3. THE ROBOT WILL SEE YOU

Robots have helped med­ical teams for decades. Today robots rou­tine­ly assist in a vari­ety of sur­gi­cal inter­ven­tions, includ­ing uro­log­i­cal and heart oper­a­tions. The indus­try is grow­ing and allows for ever greater pre­ci­sion and effi­cien­cy.

Although tech­nol­o­gy is mak­ing great strides and an increas­ing num­ber of patients are pre­pared to let robots car­ry out oper­a­tions on them, many are still hes­i­tant about trust­ing their lives to an auto­mat­ed machine.

As robots in health­care become more wide­spread, trust will grow. But it must not be for­got­ten that machines can make mis­takes so human super­vi­sion will still be required.

4. PRINT ON DEMAND

3D-print­ing tech­nol­o­gy has the poten­tial to help over­come a glob­al short­age of donor organs. Sci­en­tists recent­ly pre­sent­ed the first 3D-print­ed heart. In the future we may be able to print a com­plete spare-part ware­house of organs and pro­vide them in large quan­ti­ties on an eco­nom­i­cal­ly viable basis.

A wide­spread roll-out of the tech­nol­o­gy would save mil­lions of peo­ples’ lives. 3D-print­ed tis­sue also plays an impor­tant role in phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal research. Even func­tion­al can­cer cells can be print­ed for the devel­op­ment of new can­cer treat­ments.

The sec­tor is mak­ing huge strides, but the tech­no­log­i­cal hur­dles in devel­op­ing com­plex organs are still sig­nif­i­cant.

5. LIFTING THE BURDEN

Exoskele­tons pri­mar­i­ly sub­sti­tute or aug­ment lost or impaired limb motion in patients. They play an increas­ing­ly impor­tant role in reha­bil­i­tat­ing patients who have lost their mobil­i­ty due to injury, and get them back on their feet quick­er. They can also light­en the bur­den for peo­ple suf­fer­ing from neu­ro­phys­i­cal con­di­tions such as cere­bral pal­sy.

In the future, exoskele­tons may help nurs­es lift patients, sup­port sur­geons dur­ing exhaust­ing oper­a­tions, and keep peo­ple safer and health­i­er at work for longer. The human, soci­etal and eco­nom­ic impact in an aging world would be sig­nif­i­cant.

But first, exoskele­tons will have to become soft­er, small­er, more dis­creet and more per­son­al­ized. And prices per unit need to drop.

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