5 Big Things You Can Expect From Medical Technology in 2017

medical devices

The medical field must constantly evolve in order to meet the changing demands of patients, their families and healthcare providers.

While we saw plenty of life-changing medical devices in 2016, the industry is positioned to witness new technologies that will increase safety, decrease healthcare costs and provide overall better patient care in the upcoming new year. In fact, it’s predicted that the expansive growth of the medical device market will reach $398 billion in 2017.

Let’s break down five of the medical device innovations we expect to see in 2017.

1. Predictions based on user behavior.

When it comes to tracking personal outcomes of patients’ healthcare, analysts have traditionally had to rely on surveys. This search for new information has reached a plateau, though, and isn’t reflective of the needs of every individual patient.

That’s why Outcomes Based Healthcare and SoftServe have recently partnered to create OBH Sense360 to collect personalized data on people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The smartphone app collects data about a person’s interactions with their phone such as movement, length of calls and even the amount of light in a person’s environment. Using machine learning algorithms, it can then determine wellness behavior patterns.

“There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that people behave differently when they are not well… in terms of leaving the house less,” Rupert Dunbar-Rees, MD, cofounder and CEO of OBH, explained. “If they have a lower mood, their texts may be a different length—they may be shorter, they may have more missed calls, those calls may be shorter and may be at different times.”

Using similar technology, more life research organizations will be able to collect information to provide personalized and patient-centered healthcare.

2. Smart home technology.

Although we’ve been hearing about the Internet of Things and smart home technology for a few years now, a lack of collaboration between competing manufacturers has delayed the implementation of this technology within individuals’ homes.

This is changing now that the big tech companies, such as Apple, Google and Amazon, are releasing streamlined models. BI Intelligence forecasts that the installed base of healthcare IoT devices (not including wearable devices such as fitness trackers) will grow from approximately 95 million in 2015 to 646 million in 2020.

The use of IoT through smart home technology will transform home patient care. When it comes to patients who don’t appropriately take their medication, smart medication dispensers in the home, for example, could automatically upload information to the cloud and notify doctors. Even further, this type of technology could alert doctors or family members of any potentially dangerous behavior.

The use of these home monitoring systems will also allow patients and doctors to track health without a visit to the doctor’s office, avoiding costly trips.

3. Investment in digital twins.

Simulation has been used across manufacturing industries — such as automotive, aerospace and oil and gas — to develop new products and test processes in a virtual environment for years. This ability to explore possible outcomes without wasting time and money has now trickled into the medical field.

Enter: digital twins. Digital twins combine artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and virtual/augmented reality to create simulated versions of patients that allow doctors to virtually explore an organ’s behavior in order to plan personalized treatments, prevent medical complications before they occur and overall provide better data-driven care.

Although it’s still in its infant stage, Dassault Systèmes has already created software for a 3D heart. This software can turn a 2D heart scan into a personalized full-dimension model of the individual’s heart. The user can then reverse its chambers, cut across a section, run hypotheticals and perform other manipulations.

As this technology continues to grow, Gartner, the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company, predicts that hundreds of millions of parts will be represented by digital twins within three to five years.

4. New hospital disinfection technology.

Even in this day and age, reducing hospital-acquired infections is a top priority for healthcare leaders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 25 patients will acquire at least one infection while hospitalized.  

Just this year, the ECRI Institute developed blue-violet light fixtures to combat this issue. While ultraviolet light isn’t a new way to kill germs, it has to be used when patients are not in the room (since UV wavelengths damage skin cells). Because this new device uses visible light in the blue-violet spectrum, it’s safe to be used around patients.

“The technology kills pathogens but is harmless to patients and staff, which means for the first time, hospitals can continuously disinfect wards and isolation rooms,” Professor John Anderson, a member of the team that developed the technology, said in a news release.

Moving into the new year, there will be an even greater push to develop and manufacture disinfection technology to ensure a sanitary working environment, increased patient care and lower healthcare costs.

5. Smart clothing.

This year, 101.9 million smartwatches, fitness trackers and other wearable devices will be shipped (up from 79 million in 2015). But the future isn’t just in accessories — it’s in clothing.

Fitness bands pose problems because they’re inconvenient and often inaccurate. Clothing, on the other hand, fits anyone’s natural routine. Plus, because it covers the entire body, it paints a better picture of overall health.

OMSignal is a brand that manufactures workout clothes that track a variety of wellness indicators. It currently can collect data on the basic indicators, such as calories burned, heart rate and breathing efficiency — but will soon use these metrics to track emotional wellness, too.

The company plans to take its clothing to the medical side of wearable tech. For example, pregnant women may be able to share their baby’s heartbeat with the OMSignal’s app through the data found in the smart shirts, and smart clothing could notify users (or family members) of medical issues or physiological changes before an emergency hits.

This doesn’t just apply to fitness companies. More and more brands, such as Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Joe’s Jeans are bursting into the field and creating smart shirts, jackets and jeans.

Medical technology: What’s next?

What type of medical technology do you think will emerge in 2017? What were some of your favorite tech devices from 2016? Let us know on Twitter @AppleRubber or contact our engineers for information on our medical capabilities.