The latest developments in medical technologies — including the use of artificial intelligence, telehealth, integrated technologies, and data intelligence — are geared toward improving patient engagement. Clinical precision medicine, which includes leveraging the individual patient’s data, connecting the patient with their provider, and then leveraging AI or machine learning in a way that will help drive behavior change specific to the individual is one example of how this trend is taking shape. In addition, next-generation telehealth platforms can increase overall satisfaction through seamless integration with other patient engagement tools, automation of administrative workflows, and dedication to continuous updates.
Surgical navigation systems of the future combine the power of light field technology with computer vision, data intelligence, and real-time anatomical alignment calculations to ensure that surgeons can make the most informed decisions in the operating room. This article explores these and other trends and how manufacturers can accommodate for evolving technology and customer demands.
How Digital Health Is Evolving
While many wearable technologies began as a way to help people improve fitness, they have evolved to take on much greater diagnostic and other medical uses. According to market research firm Global Data, the wearable tech industry is currently worth nearly $54 billion.1
“Digital health products like sensors, wearables, and remote patient monitoring provide the infrastructure that is at the heart of connected care, which is a big part of what our company does — better connecting patients and their key data with their healthcare providers, who — as a result — are able to provide better and more timely treatment recommendations,” says Russ Johannesson, CEO of Glooko, Palo Alto, CA.
Johannesson says that how these digital health products will evolve moving forward depends on growing areas like digital therapeutics and digital clinical research that require these products and what these arenas will demand from the products in the future. The digital therapeutics market exceeded a valuation of $6.5 billion in 2022 and is estimated to expand at 31.5 percent CAGR from 2023 to 2032, driven by growing prominence of chronic ailments, according to Global Market Insights.2
“I think, in general, there will continue to be an increasing demand for connected care and remote monitoring, and what will help this is the steadily growing weight of clinical evidence demonstrating that better connected care between patients and providers leads to better health outcomes,” he says.
“However, practically speaking, we expect that the actual adoption of technologies like remote monitoring may happen at a more deliberate pace rather than the more accelerated speed much of industry had hoped for. And what we’ve seen in our work is that it all comes down to having the things in place providers need to help them make the actual leap to remote monitoring adoption,” says Johannesson.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has taken a range of administrative steps to expedite the adoption and awareness of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. While many telehealth flexibilities are temporary for Medicare recipients, the advances took hold and will continue to impact healthcare delivery.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of change in healthcare and has drastically increased the adoption of digital health products of all kinds,” says Stuart Long, CEO of InfoBionic, Chelmsford, MA. “With the uptick in virtual health, we are seeing broader adoption of these tools than ever before, as more and more care takes place beyond the healthcare provider’s four walls.”
“While just a few years ago these tools were considered novel, remote monitoring, sensors, and other [mobile health] products are now at a different place on the digital adoption curve. Providers that embrace these tools are no longer early adopters — they are part of a digital majority.”
Long says that as these tools become mainstream, industry is seeing “an uptick in their level of medical sophistication — and the level of acuity with which they can report on a wide variety of indicators. We also see an increase in their level of convenience for the patient, who must be a willing participant to realize their full potential. Finally, we are seeing a tighter integration between these tools and the healthcare environment. The ultimate example of this is the fourth major ward of the hospital that continues to take shape: the virtual care unit,” says Long.
While adopting new technologies isn’t always easy, it may be imperative.
“As much as this has been a very rapidly evolving area in medtech over the past few years, I expect we will see a big push to accelerate new solutions. In a world where anyone can track their Uber Eats order or Amazon packages or monitor just about any aspect of their home remotely, it’s surprising how little advancement has been made in the medtech arena,” says Dr. Lisa Anderson, CEO and co-founder of Paragonix Technologies, Cambridge, MA.
“I think many device companies have struggled to adapt to the pace of rapid advancements in consumer mobile technologies. But when personal apps have become so advanced, it is imperative for us in the medical community to leverage the best that’s out there to improve patient care. I see this trend growing in the organ transportation community especially, where there has been a rising demand to acknowledge and overcome the lack of continuous oversight for donor organs. In recent months, surgical teams and even the U.S. senate have begun to seek more advanced ways to reliably monitor and track donor organs during transit in real-time.”
While technologies ranging from wearables to digital sensors are a central part of the digital transformation of healthcare, a focus on emerging fields such as digital therapeutics will be a main driver in 2023.
“What will drive the advances are the demands of rapidly growing fields like digital therapeutics and clinical research,” says Johannesson. “For instance, with research, we’re seeing an increasing demand from clinical research organizations and pharma companies for both retrospective studies — which leverage our aggregated, de-identified sets of real-world data — as well as clinical trials, which use digital technologies for in-person as well as virtual trials. As the demands for digitally driven research grow, more will be asked from the remote monitoring, sensors, and wearables that facilitate the collection of the data that power their research,” he says.
As to digital therapeutics, Johannesson says there is a “huge thirst” for digital solutions from the pharma and medical device companies that create therapies that treat the range of medical conditions. “These companies are asking us to create digital therapeutics solutions that will help them not only onboard patients but also help them drive patient adherence to their therapies,” he says. “And once again, it’s the digital infrastructure of remote monitoring, wearables, and sensors that facilitates the data collection required by digital therapeutics, so it’s only natural that this growing field will drive advances in these products.”
And as the COVID-19 pandemic drove the critical need for cutting-edge technological tools and innovation in the areas of public health, medicine, and wellness, it began to drive the big data healthcare market over the pandemic phase, according to a report from Mordor Intelligence, noting that several companies are engaged in utilizing big data for analyzing patient data and outcomes in order to better understand diagnosis and treatment prospects.3,4
Long notes that technologies like IoT, big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, digital twins, and other key tech enablers are continually driving advances in digital health products.
“Adoption of these exciting technologies will enable providers to make better decisions on patient care, informed by the most robust and reliable information possible. No matter the technology enabling digital health innovation, the common thread is data integrity — which continues to rise across digital health categories,” says Long.
“This is the real challenge for medical device companies to stay ahead of the breadth supporting technologies evolving every year. Everything from the hardware, communications platforms, software, to the evolution of UX design is evolving rapidly,” says Anderson. “In the transplant space, IoT advancements have enabled broader connectivity and tracking by making robust autonomous connected platforms with GPS and LTE more widely available. But even UX design is advancing every year, which is especially critical to a procedure with many individuals all trying to stay coordinated in the middle of the night with lives on the line. In the high-stakes transplant environment that Paragonix is seeking to provide value, we are very much interested in leveraging new miniaturized technologies for remote organ assessment and changes to EMR interoperability access in order to provide new capabilities for transplant programs.”
Anderson adds, “Advancements in monitoring capabilities will largely rely on Bluetooth and GPS technologies to elevate the logistics and delivery of individual tracking insights. These technologies do more than allow users to track medical devices in real time. As companies continue to face the growing urgency to become more accessible and connected, I expect a continued focus on cybersecurity, ensuring that all connected medical devices are utilizing HIPAA-compliant, secure applications.”
Making Precision Engagement Possible with AI
“AI and machine learning are at the heart of what we refer to as precision engagement, which we see as a big developing trend that will not only create improved health outcomes and reduced costs, but also lead to what we believe will be a better patient and provider experience,” says Johannesson. “Combined with just-in-time, adaptive intervention (JITAI), AI and machine learning are what make precision engagement possible. Precision engagement is a very specific application of clinical precision medicine that enables providers to deliver very precise interventions and medical recommendations for individual patients based on the patients’ own behaviors. It’s about engaging the right patients with the right interventions at the right time, and again, that’s only possible through our ability to gather patient data, which hinges on the digital health products that help us collect the data.”
He says that with the increasing demand for precision engagement — powered by AI and machine learning — he expects to see more and more “asks” of digital health products that make precision engagement possible.
Long points to data integrity as the common thread across the entire digital health innovation landscape. “With data integrity comes data volume, and with data volume can come operational burden — unless, of course, a provider has the right tools. Through artificial intelligence and machine learning, the data collected by devices can be instantaneously analyzed, rapidly surfacing, and sharing key findings with the stakeholders who can affect change,” he says. “At InfoBionic, we use these tools to empower providers with the key indicators of cardiac health. In our space, AI enables more complete visibility and faster diagnoses, both of which have the power to improve healthcare outcomes over time. By harnessing AI, time-constrained providers can do more of what they do best.”
AI-ML is an exciting space for device companies. Anderson says they are all looking at the best ways to leverage this powerful tool to help patients.
“I think it has had the most impact in two areas — clinical research and image assessment. In clinical research, we have projects looking at the massive datasets we and others are collecting on patient data with ML platforms to unlock new understandings that could change our understanding of patient care. In image assessment, there are areas with big variability such as consistency in biopsy readings and even heart functional assessment that have critical impacts on patient care. By using a powerful tool like AI-ML, we could drive more consistency in outcomes which would be an incredible achievement.”
But extracting data using AI and ML and making the data meaningful is the real challenge. “As we continue to emphasize the growing sector of healthcare that exists within AI and machine learning, we must first focus on extracting and utilizing data in an efficient way,” says Tommy Carls, vice president of product development and marketing at Proprio, Seattle, WA.
“Across the patient care continuum, there are mass quantities of valuable and dense pockets of data generated every minute. In fact, I had a conversation recently with a clinical influencer who stated, ‘everything is a data point,’ and they are absolutely right. By understanding and applying patient and clinical data, it will unlock new insights and extract value from operational data that we have yet to see in healthcare.”
Throughout 2023, he says, “we can expect to see increased interest in developing systems and technology that is capable of extracting electronic health data across multiple systems, linking that data to common standards and finally providing that data intelligently to point of care at the appropriate time.”
Innovations Raising the Standard of Care
“The future of the healthcare industry is incredibly bright,” says Anderson. “Every day, a new innovation is being produced or improved, and the industry’s collective momentum ensures that we can improve both the surgeon and patient experience. It is vital to provide our healthcare teams access to high-quality technology that not only allows them to perform their job more efficiently but also raises the standard of care.”
Anderson says their success in transplantation has its foundation in providing technologies that optimally and seamlessly fit into a complex clinical situation. “We believe in technology victories by empowering clinicians and making them the master of a process — not burdening them with complexity that leads to money and time spent unnecessarily,” she says.
Trends such as remote monitoring will continue to be key to advances in healthcare. “While remote monitoring is not a new concept, its evolution is driving healthcare to places it has never been” says Long. “An innovative virtual telemetry platform like InfoBionic’s MoMe™ ARC Platform builds on the foundation of traditional remote cardiac telemetry and blends it with new level of acuity, continuity, and convenience in remote and hybrid care models. When I think about the future of medical technology, and the rule it needs to play to enable today’s dynamic care landscape, I see virtual telemetry at the heart of it all.”
“There has never been a better time for disruptive, innovative companies to bring solutions into the medical technology space,” says Carls. “Due to the complexity of medical technology, it is important to collaborate with clinicians who understand the intent and purpose of a product’s application and purpose. Because of this, I also expect to see surgeons acting as clinical influencers who will have an increasingly greater role in product development.
“Because we’re using technology to drive decision making in the field, we can expect to see the future of medical technology development to lean heavily on clinicians who understand the complicated dynamics and needs of patients, providers, and health systems along with regulatory and reimbursement hurdles.”
- “Wearable Tech — Thematic Research, Global Data,” August 2019.
- “Digital Therapeutics Market Size By Component,” Global Market Insights, December 2022.
- Big Data Healthcare Market – Growth, Trends, COVID-19 Impact, and Forecasts (2023–2028).
- Mordor Intelligence.