According to the WHO, Health Technology is the “application of organized knowledge and skills in the form of devices, medicines, vaccines, procedures, and systems developed to solve a health problem and improve quality of lives”. The healthcare technology ecosystem is flourishing with MedTech start-ups, personalized medical apps, and stunningly useful wearables. Let’s take a look at what’s in store in 2021 in the world of healthcare technology

Telehealth

Telemedicine or remote care is all set to reach new horizons fueled by the push received from the pandemic. Over and above that, the growth of blockchain adoption and stringent cybersecurity measures implemented by the healthcare industry are all aimed at maximum information security. Top telemedicine technologies include virtual patient care, remote patient monitoring for chronic illnesses, real-time patient consultations as well as consultations between primary care physicians and specialists. Telehealth app developers will remain focused on optimum patient experience and maximum vendor consolidation combined with EHR (Electronic Health Record) technology which essentially an electronic version of a patient’s medical history, tracks progress, ensures continuity of care, and also enhances clinical workflows. Telehealth will also encompass services related to mental health and well-being as well. The segment is expected to grow at a CAGR of 37.7% globally until 2025 (source: marketsandmarkets.com).

AR/VR/MR

Digital health will benefit greatly from Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Mixed Reality tools and applications in 2021. Use cases can range from AR glasses to allow the remote specialist to view the situation up, close, and live, AR/VR tech to visualise and plan surgical procedures, body mapping, training and education simulations, gathering medical data through simulated environments, patient-specific reconstruction for specific treatment planning, evaluation of dose distribution in 3D for precision, using AR to explain the diagnosis/problem to the patient and relatives better, to name a few. Even in post-procedure treatment or rehabilitation, patients can practice motion with VR technologies. Phobia management, dementia, and PTSD treatment can be greatly aided by VR. Globally, the AR/VR/MR market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 48.8% by 2025 (source: globalnewswire.com). 

Predictive Analytics Healthcare

Big data, machine learning, and predictive analytics have wide applications in healthcare. They are currently being used in ICU to forecast/detect signs of patient’s deterioration/improvement to alert the doctors of intervention, using IoT, EHR, and other data to help prevent patients at home with serious medical conditions with preventive measures, identifying maintenance and restoration needs in medical equipment to solve technical issues promptly. Other non-medical use cases are also seeing an uptake, such as predicting no-shows for better rescheduling, analysing admission rates, strategizing better lifestyle/dietary choices and health tips with enhanced customization. On a larger scale, predictive models can forecast possible health scares or outbreaks in different regions and geographies. Another wide-scale application at the business level is using predictive/advanced analytics to derive insights from massive big data sources like hospitals, insurance companies, pharmacies, labs, clinics, etc. to formulate new ideas in treatment, digital health apps, marketing strategies, and building digital healthcare ecosystems in special and general health issues. 

AI advancement

AI has been used for combating Covid-19 concerning developing vaccines, thermal screening, face recognition technology, and helping in early detection. Some of the top applications of AI in healthcare with the greatest potential are robot-assisted surgeries and virtual nurse assistants other than regulating and automating administration procedures. Other promising areas of advancement are medical imaging data analysis/automation, clinical decision support, reviewing cases, and assigning them on priority with AI-enabled diagnostic tools and personalized medicine. Using AI to perform tasks like counting cells, cancer assessment and CT scan analysis have also gained traction. AI in healthcare is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 48% by 2023 (source: Insider Intelligence). AI and machine learning combined with IoT can help doctors chart out the best treatment plans for different ailments while also improving a hospital’s administration efficiency through automation of insurance and billing tasks. 

Healthcare wearables

A growing ecosystem of smart medical devices is all set to burgeon into the future. Apart from fitness trackers and smart health watches, the top current trends in wearable medical app technology today are wearable blood pressure and ECG monitors. Another introduction to the wearable mix is multi-functional, compact, self-adhesive bio-sensors that can be mounted on top of clothes or bodies to monitor vital health signs like heart rate, temperature, etc. A new generation of wearable smart prosthetics and devices have been designed to help amputees to experience sensations again or help visually impaired people walk and identify objects that are being made. Data generated from medical wearables can help generate insights into the patient’s condition and even be used to predict the onset of illnesses like cancer or Alzheimer’s. Wearables that can track exposure to UV, pollen, humidity, oxygen levels, and pollution are also being explored.  Treatment providers can make personalized plans for patients after analysing data from wearables, be it reproductive cycles, insomnia, diet plans, or physical therapy regimens. 

Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)

The global market for the Internet of Medical Things is projected to grow at a CAGR of 18.49% from 2021 to 2027 (source: pharmiweb.com). Another statistic states that 20-30 billion IoMT devices would have reached the market in 2020 (source: researchandmarkets.com). Touted as the future of digital health, IoMT will enhance automated workflows for patient data, reduced errors due to accurate records and collection of data and numbers, real-time monitoring which can save time, costs, and more importantly, lives. Some of the most useful applications of IoMT to rule in 2021 are virtual wards (delivering remote patient care), wearables, smart thermometers, smart inhalers, smart insulin delivery systems, and biosensors. However, interoperability between various smart medical devices is crucial to produce any tangible benefits in healthcare improvement. 

The introduction of 5G and standardisation and strengthening of cybersecurity in addition to new trends will change the face of healthcare soon.