HealthDecember 11, 2019

Medical device outlook for 2023 and beyond

Here are some major trends attributed to the transformation of the medical device industry technological advances, presenting new opportunities as well as challenges for medical device companies.

A rapidly aging population, the shift toward delivering in-home healthcare, and the increasing prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, and other chronic diseases are key developments expected to boost medical device sales in the next decade. Simultaneously, technological advances are revolutionizing the medical device industry, not only increasing the number of connected, patient-centric medical devices going to market but also strengthening their role in healthcare. The global medical devices market totaled $489 billion in 2021 and may top $500 billion in 2022. One estimate forecasts the market expanding to $719 billion by 2029 — an annualized rate of 5.5% from 2022 to 2029.

Developments in wireless technology, smaller devices, and computing power are changing the landscape of the interconnectedness of devices. The data collected, analyzed, and shared from medical devices with healthcare organizations is already producing better patient outcomes, lowering costs, and offering an additional revenue source. Properly integrating and disseminating patient information will only strengthen future growth in the industry.

Driven by technological advances that are transforming the medical device industry, the following five trends present exciting new opportunities — as well as noteworthy challenges — for medical device enterprises in 2023 and beyond.

1. Artificial intelligence and machine learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are revolutionizing computing and its use in a wide range of fields, including healthcare. AI is a branch of computer science that builds intelligent computing systems via ML, which is the ability of computers to learn without being actively programmed. AI and MI are already transforming many aspects of medicine, including improving the accuracy of diagnoses, boosting the effectiveness of therapies, and making predictive medicine more accurate.

For healthcare professionals, AI and ML advances will continue to simplify diagnosing, treating, and monitoring patients. With AI, a healthcare professional can ask a computer questions and get quick, reliable answers about diseases and treatments. These technologies will also enable healthcare providers to monitor their patients’ diet, weight, sleep patterns, and other factors. This data will help providers detect illnesses earlier, predict diseases, and enhance their delivery of personalized care to patients. AI and ML technologies will also help patients take on a more active role in their own healthcare.

AI and ML have emerged as two of the most popular technologies in the healthcare industry. Nearly three-quarters of healthcare executives believe that deploying AI and ML will significantly improve their companies’ ability to treat patients. A leading research firm predicts the global market for AI in healthcare will top $20 billion in 2023 and exceed $187 billion by 2030, achieving an annual growth rate of 37%.

Healthcare organizations are already leveraging the power of AI and ML to handle manual tasks so providers can focus on essential patient-centric services. Innovations and improvements in collecting and analyzing patient data will lead to new services and improved patient outcomes. For example, regulatory agencies have approved or are considering approving cutting-edge robotic-assisted surgery systems that use AI and ML.

2. Wearable medical technology

The popularity of Fitbit and other wearable fitness devices is already driving the innovation of wearable medical technologies for a variety of health, clinical, research, and drug-development uses. The overall wearable technology industry is expected to reach $54 billion in 2023.

Wearable devices are already in use in many different applications in healthcare settings. They are used to monitor and treat patients with clinical conditions ranging from hypertension and cardiovascular disease to Alzheimer’s disease. These wearables provide advanced data that help healthcare professionals optimize the quality of care they provide their patients.

The range of wearable medical technologies is also rapidly expanding. Early consumer devices included fitness trackers, smart health watches, wearable ECG monitors, and wearable blood pressure monitors. Cutting-edge technologies now include textile-based, skin-based, and biofluidic-based devices. Notable examples include chemical sensors that provide an alternative to finger pricks for diabetics checking their glucose levels and biosensor patches that collect data on temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate while wearers go about their normal routines. Wearable devices that can deliver medication doses to patients are also swiftly advancing.

Wearable devices — combined with rapidly improving telemedicine technologies — improve access to health care by enabling at-home patient monitoring and more effective virtual provider appointments. Patients receive treatment without a visit to a healthcare office. Even for people who are not being treated for a medical condition, wearable technologies help promote their overall health and wellness through self-monitoring and alerts when a doctor visit may be warranted. Wearable devices and smart clothing track such data as physical activity, heart rate, calories burned, and blood glucose levels, enabling patients to collect and assess data about their own health and make better-informed decisions about health, fitness, and diet.

One looming challenge for the medical device industry is that the people who most need wearable health devices use them the least, a recent study found. The study’s researchers point to age, education, and income as the leading factors affecting the adoption of wearable health devices.

3. Virtual and augmented reality

Virtual reality (AR) and alternative reality (AR) technologies rely on headsets or smart glasses to alter wearers’ perceptions of the world. These devices either place a person in an entirely virtual environment (VR) or overlay virtual elements onto the person’s real-time view of their environment (AR).

In the healthcare sector, VR headsets are currently being used primarily to train doctors and surgeons, enabling them to gain knowledge and hone skills without putting patients at risk. VR is also gaining momentum in treatment settings. VR therapies offer patients relief from chronic pain and help people cope with anxiety and schizophrenia by enabling them to address their fears and psychotic episodes in nonthreatening environments. Healthcare providers also use VR therapies to teach children with autism social and coping skills.

AR technologies also help healthcare professionals locate veins for injections and enable surgeons to receive real-time information about what they’re viewing, assisted by computer-assisted cameras. Surgeons using this technology can share their augmented views with consulting colleagues or medical students observing the procedure.

4. 5G connectivity

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of telemedicine and remote patient monitoring by hospitals and healthcare professionals. 5G services will be integral to developing more efficient and patient-friendly health-monitoring infrastructure. The three primary advantages of 5G are ultra-fast broadband (up to 100 times faster than 4G networks), ultra-low latency, and the capacity for expansive machine connectivity.

The spread of 5G networks — as well as technologies based on 5G connectivity — will equip healthcare providers with faster internet and greater bandwidth to power real-time remote patient monitoring, telemedicine, robotic surgery, and other services. The U.S. Veterans Affairs healthcare system is just one organization that has already adopted 5G remote patient monitoring and telemedicine systems in its hospitals.

Although remote patient monitoring and telemedicine will provide many opportunities for medical device, software companies, and services suppliers, a wide range of institutional, technological, and cultural obstacles must be overcome before 5G networks will become a routine feature in healthcare that is readily accepted by healthcare professionals and patients alike.

Fast, reliable connectivity is also an essential element in driving the widespread adoption of the AI and ML medical technologies, wearable medical devices, and VR and AR technologies mentioned above. For example, 5G networks will provide rapid processing and sharing of high-quality and high-quantity medical images and data.

5. Cybersecurity safeguards

Cybersecurity has become a serious issue for both individuals and organizations. In the healthcare industry, the number of cybersecurity attacks targeting U.S. healthcare organizations alone nearly doubled in the first half of 2022 compared to 2021. To safeguard data and comply with HIPAA and other regulations, enhanced cybersecurity is a challenge that must be met in all areas of healthcare, including medical devices.

Institutional and patient information is valuable to cybercriminals, which means that medical device manufacturers must address cybersecurity risks when designing user-friendly healthcare products. Robust security measures are necessary at all points along the chain where patient protected health information (PHI) and other data is exchanged through medical devices. The FDA has signaled that it will hold medical device manufacturers accountable for security-related issues.

To prevent cyberattacks on medical devices, cybersecurity efforts should encompass not only a device’s conceptual and developmental stages but also extend throughout the product’s lifecycle. Blockchain is an effective tool to deploy in the fight against medical device data breaches. Best known for its use in cryptocurrency transactions, blockchain technology uses private keys to encrypt information. Anyone with the right key can access the information immediately whenever needed. Blockchain can enable safe connectivity and holds promise for medical device makers seeking to safeguard device data and PHI.

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