The top trend of 2023 so far seems to have been the rise of AI, artificial intelligence; the machine learning revolution that is set to take over so many aspects of our lives. But there is so much more to digitisation than Chat.gpt and its imitators. Digital health is set to improve patient care across a really wide range of applications in 2023. After the shock of COVID 19, digitisation will help overhaul the healthcare industry as it moves from traditional, face-to-face methods to modern healthcare.
COVID-19 has had a massive impact – acting as a catalyst to many remote and digital systems. Many understaffed healthcare systems were overwhelmed with a lasting increase in the number of patients, a lack of resources, and inadequate testing.
Digitization includes a wide range of technology such as: remote patient monitoring, remote communication methods, data storage, and much more. Some parts of the healthcare industries have been turning digital for many years, but some, like medical devices, have been slow to change – in part due to cybersecurity concerns, regulations, and various complexities within the industry.
So, what are the big trends in digital technology for 2023?
Remote patient monitoring
One of the fastest growing and most in-demand industries, remote patient monitoring devices help retrieve and transmit data wirelessly for further analysis and interpretation. Collecting a wide range of health data for a patient, such as blood pressure, heart rate, vital signs, weight, and blood sugar levels, it can Improve patient care, reduce readmissions, and facilitate early discharge.
It allows patients to remain at home, receiving the same quality of health care regardless of physical, geographic, economic, or other barrier, and manage their conditions and therapies.
Remote patient monitoring market is set to reach $760 million by 2030, compared to $548.9 million in 2020.
Leaders and disruptors
Market leaders include Medtronic, Abbott, DexCom, Biotronik, Boston Scientific, GE Healthcare, Philips and Honeywell International, with disruptors such as Nemaura Medical, Vivify Health, PKvitality, Eccrine Systems, Verily Life Sciences and Polar Electro, Xiaomi.
Wearable tech is an electronic device, worn on the body. It can take the form of an accessory like a watch, or clothing that measures biometrics.
Combining wearable tech with augmented reality (AR), big data, AI, and cloud computing solutions, as well as sensors, open-source application programming interfaces, frameworks, and libraries, is enabling faster and more cost-effective solutions within the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem.
Recent advances focus on diagnosis, treatment, monitoring, and prevention, allowing personalization, early diagnosis, remote patient monitoring, adherence to medication, information libraries, and better decision making, while reducing costs.
Wearable was worth $59 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $156 billion by 2024 - a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.6%. Although fitness trackers market adoption is slowing, daily use is on the rise and many manufacturers are looking to expand into more specialized health sectors.
Leaders and disruptors
Leaders include Apple, Google, Microsoft, Philips, Garmin, Medtronic, Samsung and Abbott, with disruptors such as AliveCor, Omron, Biotronik, Epson, Senseonics, DexCom, Echo Therapeutics and NeuroMetrix.
A robot is any machine that is capable of carrying out a complex series of actions often automatically and repeatedly. Robots are made up from a structure, a controller, a manipulator, sensor systems, end effectors and power sources.
Medical robotics is a fast-growing field. There are two main types - surgical and care robots – with surgical leading the way. Automation improves productivity - robots may well be able to help with workforce shortages.
The robotics industry is expanding rapidly, with an expected CAGR of 29% between 2020 and 2030 – it will be worth $568 billion by 2030. Medical robots are expected to reach a CAGR of 12% between 2020 and 2030.
Leaders and disruptors
Leaders include Intuitive Surgical, Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, Zora Robotics, Cyberdyne, Zimmer Biomet, Stryker and Focal Meditech, with disruptors including Siemens Healthineers, Titan Medical, Omnicell, Monteris Medical, Stereotaxis, Vicarious Surgical, Paro and Techmetics Robotics.
Challenges and Opportunities
AI at the center
AI software uses data inputs to make decisions on its own. AI is seen as a key driver of innovation and will continue to be throughout 2023.
Increasingly used for the management of chronic diseases, improving imaging, and integrating applications such as the Internet of Things, AI will help improve the use of medical data, collecting, analyzing, and processing larger and larger amounts of data.
In the recent past AI has been used almost exclusively for image analysis, but now AI is moving towards more general applications with some exciting results. AI will increasingly be the driving force across a wide range of new technology – including Remote Patient Monitoring, Wearables and Robotics.
Changing Patients’ Expectation
Patients' expectation is changing. Patient consumerism – where the patient is a knowledgeable consumer of their medical needs – now means patients are willing to play a more active role. And the demand for the adoption of these digital services is growing too.
Smartphones are increasingly used in conjunction with other devices, such as wearable tech, with mobile health apps helping patients remotely manage therapies and monitor symptoms. This means they will be the subject of regulation.
In Europe, the new Medical Device Regulation and In Vitro Diagnostic Device Regulation includes a Medical Device Software (MDSW) consideration where an app qualifies as a medical device if it is used for diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring.
The regulations are still evolving as the technology evolves, but are likely to remain behind technology developments, and may become an impediment to innovation.
The FDA will apply regulatory oversight to software functions whose functionality could pose a risk to patient safety, whereas the EU’s seeks to regulate any software intended to benefit a patient.
Hiring trends have been relatively consistent, with an increase in active and posted jobs, peaking in March 2022 with the US accounting for 71% since July 2019. Communication skills are most in demand, with analytical, computer, leadership, and organizational skills mentioned frequently.
While there is still a need for significant changes in regulation, changing skills and standardization required, digital technologies will give healthcare professionals a more holistic view of patient health. It will give patients more control over their health, reduce inefficiencies and improve access to care while reducing costs. It will increase both the quality and accessibility of healthcare, allowing more patients to get personalised, precision services regardless of location, mobility and economic status.