When innovations in healthcare are disruptive, they shift paradigms and establish new, more efficient ways to diagnose, treat and support patients.
Enabled in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world of digital health has brought us tools that transform the patient pathway; from medical apps, to AI software – and its impact shows no sign of slowing down - medical devices are beginning to leverage data to reimagine the patient journey.
McKinsey’s global MedTech survey reveals that while MedTech executives say that only 10% of revenue was generated from digital health solutions in 2021, they expect that figure to rise to 50% within the next 5 years.
In this article, I’ll explain:
- Why digital health is vital for the future of healthcare
- What makes technology transformative
- The top 3 MedTech innovations shaping the future of the industry
How digital health is transforming the healthcare industry
The future of the healthcare industry lies in moving away from treatment management, to optimising diagnosis and prevention.
The Lancet’s commissioned report on the future of the UK’s NHS reveals a prevailing bias towards treatment over prevention, despite the fact additional spend to improve prevention would be 3 to 4 times more effective than current NHS spending (based on the quality adjusted life year approach).
Similarly in the U.S, while chronic conditions are responsible for 75% of US healthcare expenditures, merely 3% of total US healthcare expenditures are spent on prevention.
Digital health presents a new direction for healthcare in reducing disease burden cost through better diagnosis and prevention across the patient continuum.
The Lancet’s recommendations suggest digital health and MedTech will be key across:
- Optimising diagnosis – Target investment in AI capabilities for diagnosis, as well as testing new routes and improving the availability of diagnostics.
- Promoting innovation and quality improvement – Develop and implement technological infrastructure to make the most of data. Rebalance and strengthen research and innovation.
- Strengthening integration – Reduce structural barriers, increase accountability, and work in different ways with patients, carers and the public to deliver seamless care.
In the U.K, change is on the horizon.
The government has now reallocated part of the local authority public health grant from treatment, to preventative activity and is launching digital programs and treatment offerings for patients across the health system.
What is a disruptive innovation in healthcare
Clayton Christensen; the founder of the term, describes three criteria for a disruptive innovation:
- Technology enabler – the key piece of technology that starts it all
- Business model innovation – a shift in business that enables mass reach
- The value network – the mutually reinforcing market that simultaneously promotes and utilises the technology.
In healthcare, disruptive technologies often go hand-in-hand with the accessibility and efficiencies offered by technology.
Take laparoscopic surgery for example – while a technically feasible procedure, it wasn’t until the development of the computer chip television camera and video in the 1980s, that the procedure became widely used and classed as a disruptive innovation.
Digital health and MedTech offer healthcare professionals crucial tools and technologies that revolutionise every possible step of the patient pathway, from early diagnosis and prevention to treatment in the operating theatre.
Top 3 disruptive Medical Technologies
Research from Frost & Sullivan demonstrates that AI in diagnosis can boost patient outcomes by 30-40%, while cutting treatment costs by up to 50%.
Built to handle huge amounts of data, and repetitive work processes, AI offers radiologists and physicians and crucial layer of decision support that can help mitigate errors and improve confidence in complex medical diagnosis and treatment.
Let’s take breast cancer as an example.
Research shows that digital mammography is an imperfect tool with an 84% sensitivity rate; meaning 16% of cancers remain undetected. Furthermore, a significant percentage of screen-detected breast cancers are overdiagnoses that would not have become clinically significant within the person’s lifetime.
This accuracy rate is linked to the human limitations of what radiologists can visually identify on a mammographic image.
AI algorithms absorb a huge amount of data, from the mammograph itself, to patient clinical history and risk factors, to present clear predictions that may one day be better than human screening.
What’s more, as the AI diagnosis process converts the mammographs into automatically extracted pixel-level variables, it can extract and identify new markers for breast cancer and improve our understanding of the condition.
3D Printed Organs
While 3D printing is no stranger to the world of health, 3D bioprinting has the potential to change the way we approach organ transplants forever.
3D bioprinting builds functional biological tissue and vasculature by dispensing individual groups of cells into specific locations, along with bio-scaffolds and extracellular matrices. The level of detail and personalisation required to construct the organ, may provide the flexibility required for on-demand individualised construction of biological organs.
Micro-needle biosensors for personalised dosing
Pioneering research from Imperial College London has shown the potential of microneedle technology in humans, for the very first time.
By administering antibiotics through the microneedle biosensors, the researchers were able to continually monitor and optimise dosage on a personalised basis. Delivering this personalised dose of antibiotics improves clinical outcomes and helps counteract the consequences of antimicrobial therapy, particularly the development of toxicity and antimicrobial resistance.
And its applications extend further - delivering medications through microneedle biosensors could shift the way we consider dosage in the future.
While current methods of therapeutic drug monitoring for individualised dosing present technical and operational barriers, microneedle biosensors offer an intuitive alternative.
Key Takeaway: Is digital health the future of healthcare?
It’s clear that digital technology will have a significant role across the future of healthcare.
While traditional treatment techniques can lead to silos, digital alternatives offer the opportunity to transform the patient pathway on an individual basis, and beckon in an era of personalised medicine, diagnosis and treatment.
However, patient data remains at the core of many technological innovations, protecting and using this data in a way that empowers patients is paramount.
For Pete McCabe, CEO of Datavant, one of the world’s largest healthcare data ecosystems, personalised and value-based care has immense value for global health systems, “If you think about one of the biggest advancements in healthcare over the last hundred years, it’s powering every health decision with data. And when you’re able to do that, first and foremost you put an informed patient at the centre of his or her care.”
Sustained by innovation, both health tech and medical technology are pioneering new ways to transform the patient experience.
Considering a career in MedTech?
There’s never been a better time to join the MedTech industry.
Our 2021 STEM Survey shows that MedTech is the top STEM sector for job satisfaction, with 83% of professionals reporting high job satisfaction.
What’s more, there’s a growing need for professionals; the Life Sciences 2030 Skills Strategy indicates that over 90,000 scientific workers will be needed over the next decade.
Laith and his team specialise in finding technical talent for MedTech and digital health industries, from purely R&D to regulatory control and manufacturing.
Laith's team typically recruit roles such as: Mechanical Design Engineers, Electronics Engineers, Continuous Improvement Specialists, Process Engineers, Validation Engineers, Research Scientists, Regulatory Affairs Specialists, Quality Assurance Specialists, QMS Specialists, Clinical Trial Assistants, Clinical Evaluation Report Writers, as well as other similar technical roles.