4 trends to keep you updated on MedTech technology

During the last couple of years, we have seen a speed up in the adaption of digitalization and remote health care and covid19 pushed healthcare providers and MedTech companies to find new and creative solutions.  During this crisis the MedTech industry proved to be resilient and continued to grow and innovate.

We have made a summary of some of the prominent MedTech trends from the last years. Keep reading if you are curious about how augmented reality can be used to improve surgical procedures, how your smart watch can detect corona symptoms or how AI can be used to improve medical diagnostics.

Wearable Devices

The adoption of wearable health technology has seen a great surge in the last years, especially consumer-based devices such as smart watches. Am I getting enough sleep? What is my heart rate? My blood saturation level? Have I walked my steps today? In today’s society we have an increased understanding of the importance of health and fitness which has created an interest in monitoring our health on a daily basis.

Today´s modern smart watches are often used as tools for exercise but also to monitor general health. Most smartwatches are equipped with heart rate monitors, some even have FDA approval to be used for detecting astral fibrillation, an abnormality that is linked with stroke. Smart watches equipped with blood oxygen monitors can even detect early symptoms of covid by measuring the blood oxygen saturation (SpO2). Blood saturation levels are normally within 95-100%, levels below 93 % can indicate respiratory issues. In one study Fitbit devices were able to detect covid infections a day before symptoms were reported in 50 % of the cases.

Advances in sensor technology, semiconductors and AI has allowed for more reliable wearable devices to be developed, opening the doors to medical grade wearable devices. This allows for implementation of remote healthcare where the patient can monitor diseases in the comfort of their own home. Wearable devices could help doctors with diagnosis, screening and monitoring and improve patient efficiency in hospitals.

Wearable devices are really one of the hottest MedTech trends right now and of course Together Tech are involved! Together Tech’s customer Nordic Brain Tech are developing the product CEREBRI, a remote biofeedback treatment for migraine headaches. Together Tech will help develop the system consisting of an EMG sensor, to measure muscle tension, and a sensor that measures heart rate and temperature.

AI in MedTech

The amount of data in healthcare is growing with the adaption of more digital solutions and sensor equipped wearables. This introduces opportunities for AI and machine learning to offer increased productivity, cost savings and most importantly more accurate diagnosis. AI has potential in different MedTech solutions such as robotics, personalized apps, monitoring, diagnostics, data analysis, virtual health assistance and wearables.

AI has shown to be an especially valuable tool in medical diagnostics, which has been seen in the field of radiology. Many new AI enhanced radiology solutions were introduced during 2021, promising more accurate and efficient diagnosis and increased productivity. One example of this is the healthcare AI startup company Qure.ai, which use deep learning in their app qXR to streamline and improve diagnosis of chest x-rays. qXR can segregate abnormal scans from normal ones and detect and highlight abnormal findings in a chest x-ray in less than a minute. This tool can be used to scan for diseases such as tuberculosis, covid19 and 27 other abnormalities.

Another example is an AI developed by Google Health and DeepMind, which can spot breast cancer from mammogram scans. The model was trained on breast scans from the UK and US, containing 25,856 and 3,097 scans respectively. The AI outperformed six human radiologists by 11,5 % on average. This indicates that the AI could be a useful tool supporting the radiologist in diagnosis by giving an automated second opinion.

The use of AI can already be seen in today’s healthcare in applications related to research, training, diagnosis, decision making and more. AI applications in MedTech are expected to be become more commonly used in the next years as the technology evolves and becomes more available, the global market size for AI in healthcare is estimated to grow from $10.4 billion in 2021 to $120.0 billion by 2028.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Although virtual reality, VR, has been around for years within the gaming industry, it has during 2021 shown great utility in medicine. It is not only VR that is introduced within this field, augmented reality, or AR, have also been adapted. However, VR and AR differs a lot, where VR is entirely immersive where a 3D virtual world replaces the normal surroundings using a VR headset. Augmented reality is an enhanced version of the real world where the AR headset displays computer-generated perceptual information such as, visual elements, sound, or other sensory stimuli, think Google Glass.

Every expertise requires training. To remove the risk of making real life mistakes, VR can provide the possibility to create and recreate procedures where employees can practice without consequence. Virtual reality is not only a great tool in training, but also a tool for physical therapy and rehabilitation where patients, in a more engaging video game-like environment, can perform tasks designed to fit the individual’s cognitive and physical impairments. This also provides the possibility, for the patient to perform the training in their own home while still monitored by a therapist, who can modify and adapt the training as proceeded.

The use of augmented reality can help assist surgeons with visual input, for example to identify and pinpoint exact locations for implants, where to put sutures, where to make incisions etc. In May 2021, the first-ever spinal surgery, posterior lumbar fusion (PLF), was performed using xvision AR headset, paired with a surgical robot. Because of the new technology, the surgery was completed in under two hours, three times less than normal. This is achieved because the medical team can pre-plan the procedure in detail, creating a 3D anatomical blueprint which is later displayed, in the AR headset, in real time during surgery.

Medical and Surgical Robots 

The development of medical robots has advanced with rapid pace during recent years. The field includes devices from exoskeletons – that can assist in physical therapy or increased mobility, to surgical robots- for assistance during surgery.

Robot surgery or robot-assisted surgery (RAS), has, despite the cost, been adopted by hospitals around the world. These systems are used for a variety of surgeries within a large spread of fields, for example gastrointestinal, heart, urology, and several procedures in pediatrics. One of the major benefits of performing surgeries using robotics is the minimal invasiveness, which contributes to fewer complications, less blood loss and pain, faster recovery and less scarring. The surgery systems are equipped with cameras which can provide magnified high resolution imagery guidance. Because of this, the surgery can be performed with higher precision which is also beneficial for the patient with respect to recovery time and reduce complications. If the system is computer-controlled the surgeon does not have to be on-site, and remote surgery is possible which increase the flexibility of today’s healthcare. However, these systems are very expensive, and the total cost estimate is hard to predict since it includes many hours of training, renovation of operating rooms, installation, and maintenance of equipment.

The impact of neurological disorders is often disabling or cause gait impairments, which in most cases have a negative impact in life quality. One of the aids which have made great advances during the last decade are exoskeletons. Exoskeletons can be used for a variety of applications, such as physical therapy, rehabilitation or support and enhance physical abilities. Tsukuba University in Japan together with robotics company Cyberdyne, have developed an exoskeleton called Hybrid Assistive Limb, HAL. It is the first powered exoskeleton to receive global safety certification and it also received CE certification for clinical use in Europe. This system is designed for assisting disabled and/or elderly in daily tasks but also supporting people with physical demanding jobs. The HAL uses electrodes to detect the bio-electric signals that travel from the brain toward the muscles. The system determines the desired movement, assists, and can also enhance the intended force in the movement.

Research and texts by Hanna Larsson and Louise Gertz, Product developers at Together Tech.

These topics are just a selection of all the amazing innovations during recent years. The industry keeps blooming and we expect to see more fascinating technologies ahead. 

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Postad: 20 juni 2022