10 New Medical Technologies for 2020

The medical industry has grappled with inefficient processes, rising healthcare costs, poor quality of care, poor healthcare access and lack of patient-specific treatment for far too long. But the consistent advances in medical technologies have created huge shifts in the way solutions are rendered.

Today, physicians are able to diagnose and treat patients better. Patients, on the other hand, can access quality, affordable and timely care, sometimes, from the comfort of their own homes.

According to industry analysts, increased accessibility of care is one of the most tangible ways medical technology has changed healthcare. But still, areas like patient care, research, education, and disease control are also seeing massive transformation, thanks to technology.

Healthcare is ever-changing and we expect to see further evolutions in the coming years. But here are 10 new medical technologies for 2020.

1. 5G capability 

5G is a new medical technology trend that’s set to transform medicine and healthcare delivery. Although still in its infancy, 5G is set to transform the healthcare sector by boosting capacity and speed while reducing latency. 5G networks will facilitate telemedicine initiatives, support remote patient monitoring tools, transmit large medical images, and enable more sophisticated uses of Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. Additionally, it will allow for faster communication and downloads on smartphones and tablets used in healthcare settings. Ericsson predicts a $76 billion revenue opportunity in 2026 for those addressing healthcare changes with 5G networks.

2. 3D printing

3D printing is a way of converting virtual 3D models into real-time 3D objects. This medical technology is widely used in the manufacturing of medical devices like prosthetic limbs, orthopedic and dental implants, medicine educational models, and surgical instruments. Additionally, 3D bioprinting is used to develop personalized and precision pharmaceuticals as well as living human tissue or cells for use in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Patient-specific 3D printed models are becoming increasingly useful in today’s practice of customized treatments and precision medicine – which explains its uptake. The healthcare 3D printing market is estimated to surpass the $5.5billion mark by 2024 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.5% within that time.


3. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI-powered medical technologies are quickly transforming into applicable solutions in the healthcare sector. Deep learning algorithms can handle the increasing amounts of data delivered by smartphones, implants, wearable devices, and other mobile tracking sensors in vast areas of medicine. At the moment, experts are using AI to detect epilepsy seizures, atrial fibrillation, hypoglycemia, as well as diagnose diseases based on medical imaging or histopathological tests. AI and machine learning will play an even bigger role in the coming years, helping healthcare experts with everything from note-taking to oncology screenings. In fact, it is projected to grow from $4.9 billion to 45.2 billion from 2020-2026 at a CAGR of 44.9%.

4. Surgical Robots

Surgical robots are computer-controlled, self-powered devices that can be programed to help in the manipulation and positioning of surgical instruments. Surgeons use robotic surgery because it offers greater visualization and precision. It gives them better flexibility, control, and accuracy. Unlike traditional surgery with incisions, robotic surgery allows for shorter hospitalization, minimal scarring, reduced pain and discomfort, and faster recovery times. In 2019, the surgical robot market was valued at $4.97 billion, but it’s projected to record a CAGR of 21.9% from 2020-2025 (forecast period).


5. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in healthcare

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in the healthcare market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 30.2% over the period 2018-2023, according to a new Market Research Future report. These new medical technologies for 2020 offer feasible solutions to many challenges in the healthcare industry, including patient diagnosis, medical student training, surgery assistance, and body mapping. AR & VR are broadly used to improve surgical processes, treat neurological and psychiatric conditions, and also as part of hospice care.

6. Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)

IoMT is a group of medical devices and applications connected to healthcare IT systems through online computer networks. The medical devices “things,” which are internet-enabled, allow machine-to-machine communication, that’s the basis of IoMT technology. In 2016, IoMT revenues amounted to $24 billion globally, with the number estimated to rise to over $135 billion by 2025. IoMT not only makes patient care personalized and cost-effective, it also decreases hospital admissions since medical professionals can monitor and even treat patients remotely. The rise of implantable and wearable devices in healthcare has made preventative care accessible to patients around the globe. Please check this website to learn more about IoT.

7. Cloud computing 

The cloud provides on-demand computing by leveraging cutting-edge technology to access, deploy, and use network data, resources, and applications. The broad adoption of cloud computing in the medical sector goes beyond storing data in the cloud. Healthcare professionals are now using this medical technology to optimize workflows, gain efficiencies, offer customized solutions, and lower the cost associated with service delivery. Driven by the increasing adoption of IoT and big data analytics, research shows that the industry is expected to reach $35.0 billion by 2022.

8. Telemedicine

Telemedicine involves the use of digital data and communication technologies like smartphones, wearables, and computers to access healthcare solutions remotely and manage health conditions. This medical technology is widely embraced for a range of reasons, including making health care accessible in remote areas and making services more convenient and readily available for those with limited time, mobility, or transport options. M-health also improves communication and coordination of care among doctors and patients and offers support for self-management of healthcare. According to the Market Research Future analysis, the global telemedicine market is estimated to reach $16.17 billion, with a 22.74% CAGR from 2017-2024.


9. Chatbots

Chatbots have become prevalent in recent years, mostly because of dramatic technological advances in machine learning and natural language processing. Today’s bots are more responsive, smarter, and more useful, and the best is yet to come. Chatbots mimic spoken or written human speech to simulate interaction or conversation with a real person. These powerful tools can take care of client engagement, lead generation, dispatching information on drugs and medications, and even help with medical equipment. In the face of the Coronavirus, chatbots have been a natural choice for disseminating critical health information to vast populations.

10. Predictive analytics

Predictive analytics is a medical technology that uses past data to make future predictions, customizing patient care. An experienced medical expert can use a person’s demographic, recent medical history, and behaviors to predict the future. For instance, they can identify patients with an increased risk of developing a condition and address the precursors before it’s late. The predictive model also allows providers to react quickly to changes in the patient’s vital and detect deterioration at an early stage before the symptoms are apparent. The global predictive analytics market was worth $2.2 billion in 2018 and is estimated to reach $8.46 billion by 2025 at a CAGR of 21.2%, according to Allied Market Research.

How Virtual Reality is Changing Medicine

Virtual reality (VR) is an area with fascinating possibilities. It's not only making impact in the science-fiction world, but in other industries as well, including healthcare.

Virtual reality technology is playing an increasingly larger role in the healthcare industry. It is changing the way surgeons plan for complex operations. It’s also transforming how medical students learn and patients experience healthcare.

Imagine an elderly patient from a remote town consulting with a world-class medical provider without having to leave their home. A surgical resident practicing surgery in a virtual setting without being in a medical facility. A football player recovering from pain through mind-calming videos. Or a nurse using a vein finder to insert IV on the first try. All these are happening right in front of our eyes, thanks to virtual reality.

Virtual reality models allow patients, surgeons, and their families to see inside the anatomy of the patient. This gives the patient a better understanding of their condition and enables them to make an informed medical decision. It also helps healthcare providers to come up with detailed surgical plans and share those models so that other caregivers can learn these complex procedures.

Let's look at how virtual reality is changing medicine.


Planning for complex operations

Surgeons and their teams are using VR to plan sophisticated procedures. Initially, they had to piece together a series of 2D images to understand the complex anatomy of the patient or communicate the preoperative plan. But thanks to VR, the medical professionals can now intuitively view, interpret and dissect 3D images of patient-specific anatomy. They can also interact with virtual tissues of a patient and form transections in any plane for better measurements and visualization using a pointing device.

Surgeons use images from ultrasound, CT and MRI scans to create a super-detailed virtual model of the patient's body, and then venture "inside" the tissues or organs to detect potential bottlenecks and plan how these would be avoided during the actual surgery. The 3D aspect of the imagery eases doctors' planning and enhances the accuracy of the operation, to deliver safer procedures. According to Gary Steinberg, professor and chair of neurosurgery at Stanford, VR technology gives much, much more detail than any other technology.

Virtual reality allowed doctors at the Stanford Neurosurgical Simulation Lab to execute a successful brain surgery on a patient with an aneurysm. Before the operation, surgeons were allowed to practice on images from the patient (instead of a generic brain) and lay out a plan upfront. "With the images, we can figure out how to approach the tumor and avoid critical parts like the sensory areas or motor cortex," stated Steinberg. Stanford Medicine doctors apply this technology for the spinal cord and brain surgeries because these organs are stable and lend themselves to imagery.

VR technology also played a crucial part in the successful surgery of conjoined twins at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. The doctors used VR to simulate operation to separate the three-months-old twins. They used software to convert CT and MRI images of the infants to create a 3D model. After putting on the VR glasses to explore the virtual model, the doctors realized a new connective tissue joining the twin's intertwined hearts. They also discovered all the potential risks that would arise by cutting the connection. The doctors used a "track system" in the 3D model of the hearts that allowed them to rotate the twin's heads without distorting the image. It's the ease of movement that helped them identify the solution.


Medical education and training through VR

The volume and quality of clinical evidence in modern medicine are abundant. However, the delivery channels – including traditional print publications, low-quality user-generated videos, and antiquated websites – remain outdated. For the last decades, medical education has been embracing a new way of learning - virtual reality and streaming media. This not only makes learning interactive and fun but also accessible and scalable.

The 360-degree VR offers an immersive medical education experience. It creates an authentic operating room environment for medical students who are learning new technologies and techniques like robotics and advanced laparoscopy. With different camera angles, including 360-degree panoramic views of OR, surgeon POV and digital overlays that showcase the surgical procedure, learners can experience an authentic operation room environment irrespective of their location.

VR is taking the learning experience to a whole new level. Imagine medical students being able to practice open-heart surgery without the risk of hurting the patient. Again, they can do this while at the medical school, or in the comfort of their own house or office. The training opportunities are limited for students. In fact, first-time surgeons did an operation on a cadaver once before the real procedure, after which a patient's safety was entirely in their hands. But now, they can practice multiple times to perfect their skills. Although the technology won't replace hands-on training, it is a strong tool to complement existing learning.

Another good example of VR in medical training is the "Visible Human" by the Center for Human Simulation (CHS). The synthesis led to a 3D high-resolution database of human anatomy as derived from direct analysis of radiological imaging and anatomical specimens. CHS seeks to facilitate the collaboration of radiologists, anatomists, engineers, educators, physicians, and computer scientists to promote the application of this and other anatomical data to teaching, clinical practice, and research.

VR is a perfect tool for healthcare simulation situational awareness training as it engages different learning areas in the brain in synchrony. The ability to understand how actions, events, and information influence the current and future circumstances is essential in medical settings.


Virtual Reality to enhance the patient experience 

A survey revealed that patients expect better physician-patient consultation. In the survey, 90% of participants wanted an elaborate sheet from the doctor, explaining their condition and ways to manage it. 70% think GPs can leverage mobile technology, digital tools, and the internet to enhance their experience. From this survey, it is clear that today's patients value technology and are more demanding when it comes to information delivery.

Virtual reality, along with augmented reality, is helping healthcare professionals to expand their expertise through 3D imaging. Traditional MRI and X-ray images, though revolutionary for their time, only offer 2D models. 3D imaging gives the surgeon a 360 view of a patient's organ, allowing them to make better decisions on treatment techniques and also better educate patients about their condition and treatment options.

Doctors are now using immersive experiences to enhance patient experiences. Immersive experience means involving a complete range of the auditory and visual senses. As the term implies, the patient is fully plunged into an alternate environment where they can turn around, look in all directions, and watch as though they were standing there, with a complete view of the world. VR can take the patient's mind away from the hospital room to a whole new present state. That's why it's widely used for fear anxiety and pain relief.

Research shows that VR, among other immersive technologies, can distract and calm patients, reducing the pain sensation. Virtual reality seems to be effective in pain relief, irrespective of the type of pain. A study performed by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, LA, revealed a 24% drop in pain scores after using VR goggles to watch calming content.