Medical technology has come a long way since the invention of eyeglasses and the stethoscope.
In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic forced healthcare into the future, and, as a result, several promising medical technologies were tested on a massive scale. In 2021, the question is how those technologies can be used together in a post-pandemic world.
Read on to learn about the ten hottest medical technologies for 2021.
Healthcare’s big data market is expected to reach nearly $70 billion by 2025, according to Bain, a consultancy firm. As the collection of health data continues to accelerate, its applications become more widespread, and its potential for improving treatment options and patient outcomes skyrockets. The biggest barrier, however, has been a lack of interoperability: one healthcare organization’s data is not easily transferred to (and easily processed by) another organization. Covid-19 underscored that problem further.
Interoperability took a large step forward in November 2020, when Google Cloud launched its healthcare interoperability readiness program. Aimed at helping payers, providers, and other organizations prepare for the federal government’s interoperability regulations, it gives program participants access to data templates, app blueprints, security tools, and implementation guidelines. If healthcare organizations can get on the same page, the potential of the industry’s big data could quickly turn kinetic.
HEALTHCARE’S DIGITAL ASSISTANTS
Digital assistants like Alexa and Google Home have changed the way people interact with technology; in 2021, those digital assistants are taking on a similar role in healthcare. Natural language processing and ambient listening have natural applications in the capture, analysis, and utilization of health data.
In 2020, Epic and Cerner, the designers of the two largest electronic health records (EHR) systems, began integrating voice-enabled virtual assistants on their software. AI startup Saykara has launched a new voice assistant that can listen to, and understand, a physician-patient conversation, without being prompted through voice commands.
A LAB ON A CHIP
If it’s taking too long to get samples to the lab, why not bring the lab to the samples? That was the idea of researchers at Stanford University, who recently developed what they call “a lab on a chip” based on CRISPR enzyme Cas12. About half the size of a credit card, it contains a complex network of channels smaller than the width of a human hair and can deliver a coronavirus test’s results in under 30 minutes.
Researchers say that the test could be modified to detect other infections, too, by recalibrating the CRISPR enzyme for a different genetic marker. As the Covid-19 pandemic taught the world, testing is the first step in combating infectious disease. With a lab on a chip, that testing can be done quickly, safely, cheaply, and more efficiently.
Data breaches cost companies globally on average $3.86 million annually, and the healthcare industry suffers the highest cost per individual breach. Combine that figure with the fact that medical facilities are data goldmines that contain some of the most private and valuable information about an individual, and you have a huge security risk that grows as fast as technology does.
Compounding the problem is the idea that sharing medical data between facilities, and between scientists, could vastly quicken the development of effective treatments, but the propensity to share such data is dampened by the fear of a security breach. The magic bullet for all these concerns, many experts think, is blockchain technology.