COVID-19 has catalyzed technological innovations and discoveries
While the advent of Omicron has spooked Indians as also the world in a reminder that we have still not seen the last of COVID-19 as yet, it goes without saying that the last two years have indeed been turbulent for patients, the healthcare sector and the authorities.
However, the upside has been that the sheer disruptionist nature of this pandemic has also catalysed the rise of an array of technology innovations and discoveries. Whether it is in healthcare devices and equipment, or modes of delivery including remote care and monitoring of patients, or even remote clinical research, or applications supporting evidence-based clinical decision-making or technological advances in epidemiology, there is a lot that has happened in the healthcare space and especially the med-tech sector in the recent past.
Now that we approach the end of 2021, and 2022-beginning is just around the corner, it is an opportune time to envisage and foresee what the New Year could hold for the med-tech sector. Among several possible developments, here are five trends that will likely rule the med-tech sector in 2022.
1 – Telehealth and telemedicine technologies will continue its march ahead
First, telehealth and telemedicine with all their associated segments will witness unprecedented traction in terms of technology innovations and development. Since it is in nascent stage especially in India, there is a massive need for improvement as well as scaling up of delivery of healthcare services via electronic information and telecommunication technologies. As a result, medical technologies related to remote and contactless patient diagnosis and monitoring will become sharper and more sophisticated this year not only allowing more user/caregiver-friendly diagnosis but also continuous and more precise monitoring of a patient’s vitals and clinical parameters such as heart rate, respiratory rate, sleep apnea, myocardial performance etc. At the same time, there will be increased standardization of technologies and platforms related to Electronic Health Records (EMRs) and Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) much relevant to patient diagnosis and management.
2 – COVID-care related devices and technologies will remain relevant
In light of omicron reviving the fear factor on account of COVID-19, medical devices and equipment required for COVID care will continue to see more improvements in underlying technologies as well as more output and production. Lifesaving devices such as ventilators will become more complex and intricate in design and manufacturing underpinned by innovation and creativity. Additionally, they would increasingly adhere to international standards while becoming more effective from patient care and clinical outcome point of view. Diagnostic devices such as finger tip oxymeters and thermometers will continue to remain relevant in the medical device manufacturing scheme of things. At the same time, due to the increased need for separate COVID wards and general patient isolation in hospitals, modular isolation wards and rooms will see better design along with better hospital furniture for ICU and COVID wards. Further, given the importance of lifesaving oxygen, not only oxygen concentrators will upgrade in terms of technology, technologies supporting onsite generation of oxygen will also gain momentum and focus.
3 – Device parts and components to get a big push
Even as the med-tech supply chain has been disrupted globally, the need to become self-reliant will drive innovation and enterprise in medical device parts and components segment of the industry in the country. Cables, probes, battery parks, circuit boards, metal parts/castings, harness, tubings, machine parts, metal fabricated components, medical-grade rubber and injection moulded components will get more attention from both private players and the government helped on by the latter’s policy incentives.
4 – Surgical device technologies will cross new frontiers
With elective surgeries making a comeback due to relative weakening of the COVID scare notwithstanding omicron, technologies related to surgeries will see more investment and become more advanced employing robotics, AI and machine learning one example of which is the robotics assisted surgical devices (RAS). Already, an array of precision surgical tools for different spheres of care such as neurosurgery, cancer surgery, cardiovascular surgery, musculoskeletal or orthopedic surgery, plastic and reconstructive surgery, among others, has found some action and visibility in the country. One after another, new-age med-tech startups have increasingly driven innovation and upgrading of technologies in this segment. This will gain even more momentum in the coming year.
5 – Disease prediction technologies to see much traction
In light of the widespread havoc that COVID has caused, the med-tech industry including engineers, innovators and scientists will continue to give utmost attention to disease prediction technologies. Employing on-the-ground data from an assortment of sources such as health apps, EHRs, EMRs, wearables, biometric devices and even genomic data from large chunk of populations, disease prediction technologies will make huge strides this year. Leveraging big data, AI and machine learning, the new-age disease prediction technologies besides aiding in more efficient and accurate disease forecasting, diagnosis and treatment of individuals, can also prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases, epidemics and even pandemics of the kind that we are experiencing currently, among larger population segments.
In sum, the year ahead looks to be full of promise and potential for the med-tech industry in the country. With its impressive technological and engineering manpower strength, forte in software and embedded software development, along with a supportive and easy clinical trial landscape, India has one of the best environments in the world for prototyping as well as product development. And there is no reason why med-tech sector will not leverage these strengths backed by favourable government policies in the coming year.
The author is Founder CEO, Max Ventilator.