[co-author: Jie Fei (Christina) Pan, Articling Student]
The Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) published an interesting new report on January 29, 2021 about Health Technology Trends to Watch. The report identifies the following list of emerging trends with medical devices and other health technologies:
3-D printing and bioprinting
3-D printing is a process of making three dimensional objects from a digital design file. Bioprinting is a specific type of 3-D printing that uses cells and biological materials to construct living tissues. Recent applications of 3-D printing and bioprinting include converting BiPAP machines into ventilators, hand-held bioprinting for treatment of severe burns, and low-cost ventilators.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
The use of AI-based systems to support patient care and research continues to be a growing trend, particularly in imaging technologies. Some recent developments include AI for brain CT exam analysis, AI-enhanced breast cancer diagnosis, and AI-enhanced speech therapy.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)
AR and VR technologies can be useful in training healthcare professionals and treating patients in areas such as pain medicine, physiotherapy, and ophthalmology. Novel applications of these technologies include medical imaging and interventional radiology, smart contact lenses for low and impaired vision, and VR for chronic pain.
Connected devices and wearables
Developments in this category will focus on greater integration and connectedness of wearables to improve patient monitoring. Notable examples include digital prevention for sleep disturbance and respiratory sensor for depression.
COVID-19 testing and identification
As vaccines for COVID-19 continue to rollout in 2021, there may be a growing need for rapid, accessible testing and sample collection such as home sampling and home testing kits, as well as point-of-care or lab-based co-tests for SARS-CoV-2 and influenza.
Interventional cardiology involves the treatment of heart-related conditions using non-surgical, catheter-based procedures and imaging technologies. Advances in this area involve medical devices and procedures which use AI and wearables, such as cardiac venous pressure reliver, implant for pulmonary arteries, portable blood-clotting sensor, temporary IV catheter, and transcatheter valves.
Minimally and less-invasive diagnostics
Trending diagnostics in 2021 aim to provide faster, more accurate, and less painful testing. Recent innovations of general and oncology diagnostic tests include microscopic needle tests, point-of-care antibiotics suitability tests, sepsis diagnosis, cancer treatment companion diagnostics, early detection tests for liver cancers, and liquid biopsies.
Neuromodulation and neurostimulation
Neuromodulation and neurostimulation involve stimulating specific nerves in the body to control and regulate their neurological activities. Emerging devices include implantable pulse generator and devices for chronic migraine therapy, home-based therapy for Alzheimer disease, magnetic brain stimulation, and pharyngeal stimulation.
Emerging technologies and devices in pain management, such as laser treatment for lower back pain and spinal implant, aim to address the need for non-opioid or non-pharmacological interventions in treating chronic pain.
Regenerative medicine is a method of replacing, repairing or regenerating tissues to restore the normal functioning of damaged tissues. Examples of advances in this field include autologous hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation and spinal cord regeneration.
Technologies to support virtual care
Investments from public and private sectors in virtual care technologies are expected to increase in 2021, particularly in technologies that enhance integration of patient records, AI prediction models, and access to high-demand services. Examples of emerging developments include digital pharmacy, physician consultation applications, remote monitoring devices, self-management applications, and virtual therapies for substance use disorders.