by Karen Taylor, Director, Centre for Health Solutions
In November 2017 we launched our report - ‘The future awakens: life sciences and health care predictions 2022’ - which provides an overview of six predictions that we believe will transform health care. This article, which first appeared in the Med Tech Innovation (MIT) news magazine,1 discusses the key medical technology innovations that I believe will impact health care in 2018.
It is vital that we envisage the innovation that could deliver improvements in health care. Especially given the growing imbalance between demand for and availability of affordable health and social care. This will require new approaches to accessing and delivering care to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of services and help bridge that gap. Our assessment is underpinned by the evidence available today that enables us to say, with some confidence, what tomorrow might look like. Inevitably, some of these predictions will happen sooner than we think, while others may never happen.
The size and scale of the medtech market
Global medtech sales are estimated to be worth $425.1 billion (USD) in 2018 and are forecast to reach $521.9 billion by 2022 (a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.1 percent). In vitro diagnostics is expected to remain the largest medtech segment with annual sales of $70 billion by 2022, cardiology ranks second and is expected to reach $62 billion in sales by 2022, followed by diagnostic imaging at $48 billion, and orthopaedics at $44 billion.2
Exponential advances in technology have made medtech ripe for innovation. Whilst the industry still lags behind other industries, in the past few years there has been an increase in device innovations aimed at tackling some of the most intractable health care challenges. The following assessment, derived from our six predictions, highlights some key examples occurring in 2018.
The rise of the quantified self
In 2018 individuals will have unprecedented access to technology, advice and support to enable them to be better informed about their own health status and future health risks. An increasing number of people will opt to obtain their genetic profiling. While many others will use health apps and wearables to provide improved monitoring of their vital signs, fitness and nutrition. The adoption of technology is helping people remain connected and active and should ultimately help to reduce the cost of health care. For example:
- Bio-telemetry, using wireless technology such as smart watches, and electroluminescent clothing, is collecting meaningful data and using analytics to monitor variability in vital signs. 2018 will likely be a landmark year for wearable technology as sleek design improvements and enhanced usability make these innovations more integrated than ever before.
- Gamification is coming into its own as a health care tool - the 2016 worldwide phenomenon, Pokemon Go, showed how a game can encourage people to get outside and become more active, leading to new video games being developed to impact people’s behaviours and actions, including rehabilitation exercises.
Smart health care can deliver more cost-effective patient-centred care
In 2018, patients with complex and acute inpatient needs will increasingly be monitored using near patient digital monitoring and radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, enabling the location of patients, staff and equipment to be tracked. More providers will adopt data-driven, real-time understanding of patient flows and acuity, with digital devices helping staff optimise care delivery, patient experience, and the management of back office services, thereby reducing costs and improving outcomes. Examples include:
- Increased use of 3D visualisation and augmented reality for surgery enabling surgeons to operate more effectively and efficiently while also giving medical trainees a clear picture of what they're doing - use cases include ophthalmology and neurology;
- Demand for surgical, rehabilitation, and hospital robots will continue in 2018 - driven by declining costs, labour shortages, and successful pilot projects. Health care robots will increasingly be deployed in surgery, hospital logistics, disinfection, nursing, exoskeletal rehabilitation and prosthetic limbs.3
Made to order medical devices are helping improve health outcomes
In 2018, an increasing number of medical devices will be ‘made to order’ based on specific patient geometry, using technologies such as additive manufacturing (3D printing). Over the past decade around 200 3D printed devices, including surgical instruments and devices implanted into patients, have been approved. One example is the revolution in the production of hearing aids, reducing the manufacturing process from nine to three steps - more than an estimated 10 million hearing aids have been manufactured using such technologies. The total size of the 3D-printed health care market is estimated to be between $1.2 billion and $2.3 billion by 2020.4
Artificial intelligence and blockchain technology unlocking value in health data
The Internet of Things means the physical and digital worlds are increasingly connected and are collecting massive amounts of data, faster and more detailed than ever before (the world’s data volume is expected to grow by 40 percent a year). Innovations include:
- AI will continue to gain ground in 2018 - mining medical records, designing treatment plans, speeding up medical imaging and drug creation;
- Blockchain technology pilots - to bridge traditional data silos, increase IT and organisational efficiencies, keep medical data secure, and streamline patients’ access to data - has the potential to help overcome the limitations of large scale sharing of health data that is currently holding back innovation. Blockchain technology will likely see its first real-world tests in health care in 2018;
- Cybersecurity technology which will remain a critical priority.5
New approaches to diagnostics will transform health outcomes
One area where medtech will come into its own is in diagnostics, with advances in the field accelerating in 2018. These include:
- Liquid biopsies to improve cancer detection and measurement of treatment responses;
- Increased understanding of the interaction between people and their microbiome with many biotech companies increasing their investment in the microbiome's potential to develop new diagnostics and therapies;
- Point-of-care (POC) diagnostics will accelerate in 2018 as the growth of boundary-less hospitals and community care increases the need for rapid results outside of clinical settings.
New entrants and partnerships are disrupting health care
Non-traditional health care companies are using their brand, engineering expertise and knowledge of customers to disrupt the health care landscape. These new entrants are partnering with traditional providers to deliver a more customer-focussed experience based on new business models and operating strategies. For example, telehealth companies are bringing health care to people’s doorsteps or workplaces. 2018 will see an increase in demand for tech enabled services such as telehealth and telemedicine to overcome geographical boundaries to provide access to services in remote areas or to tackle shortages of health care professionals.
At the start of 2018, the future of health is more challenging and the possibilities more exciting than ever before - including the need for strategies and judgement on how best to shape health care. While predicting the future is by its nature challenging, one thing all the above predictions have in common is that the developments are made possible by the advances in technology and the emergence of new collaborations and partnerships. In 2018 the medtech industry is well placed to build on and expand innovative developments and create new opportunities to deliver solutions that diagnose needs and inform care decisions, improve care delivery and enable more comprehensive care management.