To grow and sustain in the ever-changing markets, industries need to innovate and invest in new technologies. The healthcare industry is no exception, and the changes are clearly visible.
The ongoing and upcoming technological advancements in the healthcare domain are expected to help the healthcare industry grow in leaps and bounds, with certain segments expected to show a growth of over 20% CAGR. Some examples are, the Global Oncolytic Virus Therapies Market (expected to grow at a CAGR of 26.28%) and the Global Emerging Mental Health Devices and Platforms Market (expected to grow at a CAGR of 24.69%).
Here is a list of leading-edge technologies that have the potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry:
- Robotics in Healthcare
Surgery is the most commonly discussed robotic application in the healthcare industry sectors, and perhaps the most successful so far. Robotic applications help make surgeries minimally invasive further aiding patient recovery, reducing errors, and ensuring efficient technique.
According to the new market intelligence report, the global healthcare robotics market is expected to grow to a value of $11.44 billion by 2023. Here are some sectors where Robotics is actively growing:
A promising robotics concept in the healthcare industry that can show the highest increase in investments is rehabilitation robots. In Japan, a nursing care robot has been developed to assist care professionals by undertaking a range of tasks, such as lifting patients from beds, helping them stand and walk, and generally assisting patients to remain independent for longer.
- Disinfecting Healthcare Facilities
Robotics is also improving the state of healthcare in less direct ways. For instance, Xenex is a robot that uses high-intensity UV light to thoroughly disinfect healthcare facilities. Hygiene is currently a critical issue in hospitals, especially amidst the current pandemic. Xenex can significantly optimize the current hygiene processes.
- Medical device packaging
Packaging and sterilization are vital for devices that come into contact with people in the healthcare industry. When humans perform such packaging tasks, the risk of contamination can jeopardize the integrity of the products. Robots can significantly diminish or eliminate this risk.
Automation in the healthcare industry is consistently growing. Every day, an enormous number of tests are performed in medical labs throughout the world. These tests require a lot of repetitive actions which is a task that fits great with robotic intelligence.
For instance, a lab in Copenhagen University hospital used two UR Robots for productivity gains and the results were impressive. Even though their workload increased by 20%, they were still able to deliver 90% of their tests within 1 hour.
It is true that a Robot cannot single-handedly be trusted to perform neurosurgery, yet. Robotic systems, however, continue to improve the efficiency of the doctors during surgery. A company called Synaptive Medical has created a Robot that helps position a digital microscope during surgery. The precision that a robot offers is instrumental in providing neurosurgeons with the best view of the surgery.
- Next-Generation Sequencing and Genetic Analysis
A genome is a complete set of DNA and genes and is unique for everyone. It provides information on the physiology, susceptibility to diseases, and responses to specific drugs for an individual. Fortunately, the next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology allows for the easy mapping of genomes and uses the data gathered to identify problem genes, develop improved treatments, and uncover in-depth information about diseases.
Genetic analysis can improve preventative medicine as well as treatment. A good example of this is the breast cancer gene, or BRCA1. It can mutate and cause breast cancer. This implies that breast cancer can be common in families carrying this mutation. However, upon screening of this gene, doctors can recommend precautions and lifestyle changes to minimize the risk.
NGS technology could revolutionize healthcare and lead to a truly personalized treatment that is based on our genetic makeup. The NGS market is projected to grow by over $9.91 billion by 2024.
- Advancements in NGS technologies
The main advances in genome sequencing from NGS technologies are increased speed and accuracy. Genome sequencing is done by using parallel analysis, which sequences multiple genes simultaneously. NGS has the potential to increase our current understanding of biomedicine and reshape clinical care.
The Personal Genome Project is a long term, large-scale study that aims to sequence the complete genomes and medical records of 100,000 volunteers. The study began in 2005 with the goal of sharing data with medical professionals and helping medical research and scientific progress.
We can expect increasing democratization and options for NGS in the future. Many new instruments with varied chemistries and applications are being released or being developed.
Although massive strides are being made in developing this technology, several notable limitations remain.
- The time required to sequence and analyze data limits the use of NGS in clinical applications where time is a crucial factor.
- The costs and error rates of long-read sequencing make it prohibitive for routine use.
- The ethical considerations involved with genetic data can limit the public and private use of the same.
- Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)
Both AR and VR have a wide range of applications in healthcare. AR adds digital elements to existing reality by using camera devices. Oppositely, VR creates an immersive simulated environment through a headset.
They both aid in training the surgeons and doctors through a 3D representation of the body. This technology can also educate patients on their diagnosis and treatment procedures, eventually helping them relax. The global augmented reality and virtual reality market in healthcare is expected to grow at a double digit CAGR of 23.13% during the forecast period, 2019-2025.
The best example of AR is the 3D representation of a patient’s body. This can be advantageous in the following ways:
- AR makes it easy for doctors to determine the patient’s symptoms and diagnose them with accuracy
- Surgeons can visualize bones, internal organs, and muscles without making a single incision.
- They can perform accurate and low-risk surgeries as well as save time.
- Using an AR training program is great for students in residency. Doctors can practice working on a range of virtual situations that might as well crop up in real-life medical cases.
Virtual Reality plays a major role in educating and training healthcare staff. It has extensive applications in treating mental illnesses, such as anxiety and PTSD. Virtual reality exposure therapy is a behavioral treatment targeting negative behavior such as avoidance. The process helps individuals actively confront facts and thoughts giving rise to this behavior in a virtual reality. The goal is to reduce a patient’s fear and anxiety, eventually eliminating avoidance behavior altogether.
Factors that make VR a beneficial tool for the healthcare industry:
- Exercising with VR is fun and more effective.
- Virtual Reality can help collect data.
- Remote access ensures that the teaching can take place anywhere.
- VR offers the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them.
- Easily scalable and can be a cost-effective solution.
The ability to examine the human body, its drug therapies and medical devices at the nano level ensures a much higher level of accuracy in medicine. The healthcare industry is leveraging this technology for two broad applications: Diagnostics and medical devices, and nanomedicine.
An accurate implementation of nanotechnology methods can reap us the following advantages:
- Improved Biological Imaging
Nanotechnology can vastly improve biological imaging and make treatments possible on a nanoscale. This helps create precise results whilst minimizing patient discomfort and fear from invasive surgeries.
- Early Detection of Health Issues
Nanoparticles can be equipped with sensors that detect even the minutest changes in particles and molecular signals helping identify any developing health issues. This could be incredibly useful in medical fields such as oncology, where early detection can significantly boost survival rates.
- Targeted Tumor Treatments:
Nanotechnology in drug delivery helps ensure enhanced treatment with fewer side-effects. The technology helps transport the drug to a specific cell or cells in the body, which not only ensures a more precise treatment but also reduces the chances of failure or rejection
- Treating Infections and Viruses
Nanotechnology is popularly represented in the media and television for treating infections and viruses. Nanoparticles could be used to penetrate the protective biofilms developed by the bacteria, eventually killing the bacteria and curing the disease from the root. This would be much less invasive than the surgeries that are currently performed.
- Cancer Detection and Treatment
A key problem with regular chemotherapy and radiation is the damage caused to the body’s healthy cells during the treatment. New nanomedicine approaches are being used in the treatment of skin cancer, enabling efficient delivery of drugs and other therapeutic treatments to specific tumor sites and target cells with low toxic side-effects.
Using Nanotechnology can also help doctors target individual mutated cells, allowing the treatment to be undertaken with utmost accuracy, and minimum side effects.
Various technological developments in the healthcare industry are staggering. Other than these four technologies, numerous developments are arriving in the medical industry aiming to deliver excellent diagnostics and treatment to patients.