There’s no question that inventions like the stethoscope and eyeglasses were innovative for their time. However, medical technology has come far since then. So what are the latest healthcare technology innovations for 2021?
Factors driving change and innovation in this industry include an aging global population, a more affluent middle class, and the widespread availability of the mobile internet. All these factors help introduce new technology that makes the medical industry better in every way imaginable. Unfortunately, due to all this growth and change, it is estimated that over 50% of the medical industry workforce will require at least minimum reskilling down the road.
If you are interested in learning more about all these new technologies, keep reading. Below you can learn about some of the most innovative and impressive techs for 2021.
In 2020 COVID-19 significantly accelerated the prevalence and use of different telehealth resources. In fact, in April 2020, over 43% of all Medicare primary care visits involved telehealth rather than in-office appointments.
A huge benefit of telehealth over in-person appointments is that it reduces contact between healthcare workers and patients. In addition, a factor that has helped ensure telehealth services are accurate is wearable devices, which allow healthcare workers to gather real-time information related to patient data, even if they were not in the office.
Something else worth noting is that telehealth’s growth and use are likely going to continue after the pandemic is over. In fact, about 71% of all patients in the U.S. considered (or did) use telemedicine when the pandemic began, with 50% having already used some virtual appointment. Since telehealth was already growing the year before, the pandemic provided a significant boost for the development of the industry. By 2026, it’s expected telehealth will break the $185 billion mark.
One of the most important aspects of the success of the telehealth industry is patient adoption. Because more and more patients are becoming comfortable with telehealth, it is obvious the industry has a promising future.
Permanent Changes to Cleaning Tech and Hospital Design
Another trend that COVID-19 brought about is the cleaning aspect of hospitals and other healthcare facilities. To help keep these spaces sanitary, providers are investigating many new tools to enforce good hygiene and handle deep cleaning. The layout and check-in process for hospitals is also being changed to help reduce patient “clustering” and identify any contagious individuals before they even come into the building.
Some of the latest tech options that are helping with this include autonomous robots and RFID technology. The robots are equipped with a unique germ-killing UV light. When used, the light can decontaminate any space or room in around 15 to 20 minutes (depending on size). With RFID technology, it is possible to track how often and how long employees wash their hands. Some hospitals and medical offices also install thermal cameras at entry doors to determine if someone has an elevated body temperature before entering the building. The cameras will measure an individual’s body temperature, ensuring no one has an elevated temperature before entering. While this is not a universal symptom of COVID-19, it is one of the most common.
It is also predicted there will be more design changes to buildings and that these changes will seep into other commercial spaces, too. So, for example, next time you visit a health food store for your protein powder, you may be scanned for an elevated body temperature.
Some of the design changes being made include convertible areas to help accommodate any surge in critical care patients and transparent plastic or glass walls to view patients in isolation. Some medical facilities are also retrofitting rooms to deliver inpatient telehealth and various tools, like handheld buzzers and touch screen kiosks, to help ensure waiting areas don’t get overcrowded.
New Methods for Drug Development
The development of several COVID-19 vaccines in under a year will likely be remembered as a huge scientific accomplishment in human history. The entire process for approval was sped up thanks to regulatory fast-tracking and innovations in how medical trials were set up and conducted. In this case, virtual clinical trials, which were primarily online, helped ease the burden and complexity of participating. This, combined with a feeling of collaboration instead of competition between the top pharmaceutical companies, helped pave the way to a much brighter future drug development.
It is predicted that some of the more relaxed regulatory procedures related to drug development will fade as the COVID-19 pandemic ends. Still, the more innovative approaches to collaboration and testing will remain. For example, the alliance between the pharmaceutical industry’s big names has helped to collaboratively explore all new antiviral treatments and share new and preliminary data. Today, the FDA has released all-new guidelines for virtual trials, which has opened up an all-new frontier to develop and test all-new drugs.
Gene Therapy for Hemoglobinopathies
The hemoglobin molecule is a red protein that is responsible for transporting oxygen in your blood. Hemoglobinopathies are a type of genetic disorder that impacts the production or structure of your hemoglobin molecule.
Some of the most common hemoglobinopathies include thalassemia and sickle cell disease, which, combined, impact over 330K children in the world each year. Currently, more than 100K patients are dealing with sickle cell disease in the world.
New research has derived gene therapy, which is providing individuals with hemoglobinopathies to create functional hemoglobin molecules. This also helps to reduce the presence of ineffective red blood cells and sickled blood cells. It is also helping to prevent complications that are also commonly seen with this condition.
Implementing AI for Efficiency and Automation
With doctors, nurses, and other support staff rushing to handle the waves of coronavirus patients, all while dealing with reduced staff because of mandated isolation or the illness, they searched for options to help take on some of the work or anticipate the developing needs before they occurred.
The need for touch-free interactions and efficiency will help improve natural language processing in the clinical field. This is a part of AI that makes it possible for computers to understand spoken words. Once recorded, the information is transmitted into the patient record. Another efficiency touched on above is automated services, like robots and chatbots, that can help alleviate the all-too-common bottlenecks in the administration area.
Higher levels and AI adoption will continue to grow and evolve to help deliver a higher level of personalized care. This includes machine learning and algorithms that will accurately detect heart disease and cancer, along with virtual assistants that can deliver reminders for medication and even robot-led therapy for patients recovering from a stroke.
The IoMT – Internet of Medical Things
Several mobile apps and devices have come into existence to help track and prevent chronic illnesses. The combination of IoT development with telehealth and telemedicine technologies has created a new IoMT – the Internet of Medical Things.
With this, several wearables have been used, including EKG and ECG monitors. It is also possible to take other common medical measurements, including blood pressure readings, glucose levels, and skin temperature.
It’s estimated that by the year 2025, the IoT industry will exceed $6.2 trillion. Today, the healthcare industry has become so reliant on IoT tech in 2020 that up to 30% of the total market share for all IoT devices will come from the healthcare industry.
As new delivery methods are presented, like the first FDA-approved smart pill in 2017, more interesting options for providing care are being given to healthcare practitioners.
It is important to note that providing effective and consistent communication with several IoT devices is one of this sector’s main challenges. Many manufacturers are still using their own protocols for “talking” to the developed devices, which can cause issues, especially when working to acquire larger amounts of data by the servers.
Another issue is connectivity. Collecting data via smartphones and microcontrollers may be disrupted by several environmental factors. The buffering methods for local microcontrollers must become much more robust to keep quality connections. Some security concerns must be dealt with. In fact, one study indicated that up to 89% of all healthcare operations underwent a minimum of a data breach.
Increased Data-Driven Healthcare Services
The healthcare industry’s big data market is predicted to exceed the $70 billion mark by 2025. With the collection of health data continuing, the applications are also becoming much more widespread, and the possibility of improving treatment options and outcomes for patients is growing. However, one of the main barriers is interoperability. The data at one healthcare organization cannot be transferred or processed easily by other organizations. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted this issue even more.
In November 2020, interoperability improved significantly when Google Cloud presented the healthcare interoperability readiness program. This was to help payers, providers, and other healthcare organizations get ready for the interoperability regulations being created by the federal government. It provided participants in the program with access to implementation guidelines, security tools, app blueprints, and data templates. If various healthcare organizations can get on the same page, the possibility of big data in the industry may grow significantly.
Multiple Sclerosis Drug Development
If you have multiple sclerosis or MS, it means your immune system is attaching the protective myelin sheath that covers your nerve fibers. This results in communication issues between your brain and your body’s remainder, leading to serious deterioration and damage. In most patients, it eventually leads to death.
It is estimated that about 15% of people who have MS deal with a subset of the disease that is called primary-progressive. This is noted by a steady progression and gradual onset of the symptoms of this condition. Now, there is a new therapeutic monoclonal antibody that the FDA has approved for treating this condition. Unfortunately, this is the only MS treatment currently available for those with primary progressive MS. While this is true, this shows promise for developing more treatment options in the future.
Virtual and Augmented Reality Integration
Immersion in a virtual world or viewing real-life spaces using digital enhancements is no longer just for those who like to game. Thanks to the use of headsets designed specifically for medical professionals, it is possible to implement this technology when caring for patients.
Some examples of how this technology is being used include clinical experiences for nursing students, realistic surgical training, and even distraction, helping with pain management. It is predicted that VR will gain some traction in the senior care area of healthcare, too. Some activities, such as avatar-led chat rooms and virtual travel, may seem fun, but the memory-triggering and engaging encounters are also quite therapeutic. In addition, this technology can be used by a single person or group, which has led to an entirely new world for older individuals who may have limited mobility.
With healthcare technology, privacy is an ongoing issue that must be monitored. This is especially true when it comes to HIPAA compliance. While cloud computing is making the storage and retrieval of data much more efficient, its regulations are strict, making it difficult to remain compliant.
Ensuring remote communication with patients is growing in importance. Unfortunately, many telehealth technologies are still not completely compliant with HIPAA, which may result in challenges for patient privacy.
Healthcare providers must make sure they are following the regulations as closely as possible. New technologies are helping this, but that many healthcare facilities and providers are still struggling with it. The importance of compliance cannot be understated, and healthcare providers need to take every step necessary to ensure that the desired compliance is achieved.
Understanding the Emergence of New Tech in the Healthcare Industry
As you can see, technology is continuing to evolve and change in the healthcare industry. Many of this technology has been quickly released due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but most agree it is changing things in this industry for the better. Because of new technology, patients have more control over their healthcare, and providers can provide better care, even from a distance. It is predicted that throughout 2021, new and innovative solutions will continue to emerge, which will help further improve this industry and the care that is available to patients of all ages and in all locations.
As healthcare providers, staying updated with new tech offerings is essential since this will ensure you provide your patients with the highest quality of care possible. However, it is equally important for patients, as technology will improve their care experience and help ensure they receive the treatment needed. Keep this in mind and stay aware of continued innovations to know what is going on and how healthcare will continue to grow and evolve.