The Most Disruptive Medtech Trends Born Out of the Most Unpredictable Year Ever

Doctor using laptop with a stethoscope at their side
Credit: Elnur -

By Ido Muller, Co-Founder & Algorithm Team Leader of DreaMed Diabetes

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and as with any disruptive healthcare innovation, it takes time, validation, and the right catalyst before it becomes fully embraced across the medical community. Well, 2020 has thrown up plenty of demands, ones that have required immediate alignment with the numerous safety concerns of what could be considered the least predictable year ever. The industry in most urgent need of such upgrades has been medicine, where significant adjustments have been incorporated to ensure standards of patient safety do not take a cliff dive. But not all innovations in the glitch that was 2020 were ones we could have necessarily foreseen, but that hasn't stopped them from causing a ripple effect in a medtech landscape already going through significant change.

Telemedicine: 2020's Knight in Shining Armor

With the coronavirus pandemic, one innovation is at the forefront of transforming the healthcare landscape: telemedicine. Since February 2020, telemedicine in the U.S. grew from less than 1 percent of primary care visits to nearly 43.5 percent in April 2020. In large countries, telemedicine continues to transform medicine by making it easier to diagnose and treat patients. Telemedicine is improving diagnosing and treatment by making it easier for patients to get access to specialists, too. The availability of electronic records has also made it simpler to forward documents to specialists.

In rural areas, this can mean the difference between having or not having expert input into a case. Access to records has enabled doctors to reduce readmission rates by providing real-time monitoring of patients outside the office, proving invaluable for patients that require regular monitoring. It has also proved invaluable for those navigating the obstacles of social distancing. 

“With patients becoming accustomed to the level of access telemedicine provides, I don’t think we’re ever going to be able to go back. The box is open,” Atlanta Neurologist, Dr. Jeffrey English, said in a Modern Health Care interview. With patients growing more accustomed to virtual care, people in the future are much likelier to opt for providers with telemedicine access. IIn reducing hospital wait times, telemedicine will become much more present in preventative care. Ironically, it may well have taken a global pandemic to ignite this normalization. 

The AI Revolution 

Developing Artificial Intelligence (AI), which can process information and provide decision-making data in a manner similar to what a human does, has given rise to an entirely new facility of medicine. AI applications can improve the speed and accuracy of diagnostics, helping to triage cases and streamline processes. AI has also played a critical role in the fight against COVID-19, including areas like pandemic detection, vaccine development, thermal screening, facial recognition with masks, and analyzing CT scans.

An application developed by a company from Toronto called BlueDot, for example, aided in implementing early-warning systems for identifying pandemics. BlueDot was the first to publish a paper that predicted COVID-19’s spread worldwide, with its system scanning more than 100,000 media sources worldwide in over 65 different languages daily to ascertain dangerous outbreaks in real time. This has enabled, for instance, great strides in immunology, where AI has helped identify viral fragments that have the properties needed to accomplish these goals.

Analytics can also identify concerning developments and allow practitioners to start looking at possible approaches for early treatment. Companies like HealthReveal are leveraging AI, advanced analytics, and biomonitoring for early detection to preempt the advance of certain diseases. Meanwhile, Singapore-based Endofotonics has developed an AI-enabled IMDx system that enables real time detection of early gastric cancer during endoscopy. 

Machine-learning algorithms in AI are also being utilized to safely explore chemical and biological interactions in the drug-discovery process, bringing new drugs to the market faster. Specifically, this can help diagnose diseases earlier, optimize treatments or clinical trials, and even offer targeted treatment for patients. Throughout history, technology has been used to aid the medical process, but there is something about AI that makes it stand out, and that’s its broad range of possibilities. Medtech solutions utilizing machine intelligence in 2020 offer us just a glimpse of what AI will become. 

Visualizing Solutions

Visual technologies have been utilized extensively in medicine throughout history, particularly in aiding detection, classically impervious to the naked eye. But in 2020, cameras have been used in ways many had never previously conceived. Companies such as IDS have utilized AI in image processing to develop inference cameras, which can apply knowledge acquired through deep learning to new data, solving tasks that would not be possible with rule-based image processing. 

Drone companies such as Airobotics are fusing AI to provide an automated, end-to-end protocol, even helping the Singapore government manage contact tracing of its population for social distancing. Further afield, companies have developed cameras with temperature-checking abilities that are being employed at airports all over the world. They enable the airport staff to see potential coronavirus patients and separate them from the crowd. The staff checks the passengers through a camera that detects those with abnormal body temperature. 

Like the world, medicine is changing. It’s been up to innovators to keep medicine aligned to society’s ever-changing needs. These demands have been put on steroids in 2020. With COVID-19 becoming an undeniable, and detestable, part of our lives, medical technology has served as our most effective armor against it. The advances made in technology have given oxygen to medical innovations, but the way in which medicine has utilized innovation to learn, process, and streamline further answers has been key to our progress going into the new year. That’s why these innovations are more than just disruptive, since they don’t represent an temporary incursion into medicine, but rather an inextricable part of it. 

About Ido Muller:

Ido Mulled co-founded DreaMed Diabetes and has been leading the algorithm team ever since. He is a biomedical engineer with a BSc in the mechanisms of the physiological systems, having been published in multiple scientific articles thus far. Ido was a key player in developing DreaMed’s artificial pancreas closed-loop software, as well as the Advisor Pro AI system, a decision support tool for physicians providing personalized medicine, automatically determining the patient’s optimal treatment.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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