Healthy growth in medical technology
If there’s anything worth using technology for, it’s keeping ourselves alive and well. The healthcare industry has undoubtedly benefited hugely from technological developments. The sector now uses wearables, Artificial Intelligence, 3D printing, IoT technology and more to improve patient experience and provide a higher standard of care. However, not all advancements in HealthTech are made in labs and medical facilities. Medical technology is a promising market for businesses across the scale. Now, numerous startups and companies are looking to HealthTech to offer life-changing products that harness innovation to enhance quality of care. But what are the latest developments in the works, and which companies are fuelling them?
1. Space-bound superbugs
On February 14th, SpaceX rockets delivered a special parcel to the International Space Station. Instead of traditional Valentine’s Day roses, Elon Musk’s company (along with biotech firm Nanobiosym) sent the life-threatening infection MRSA. Every year, more Americans die from MRSA than from AIDs, Parkinson’s disease, emphysema and violence combined. By using microgravity to speed up the mutations of bacteria, scientists will be able to understand the infection’s progression at a much faster rate than on Earth. This technique could be used to examine other infections, too.
2. Augmented Reality sight
OxSight, an Oxford Startup, has developed a seeing aid for the visually impaired. Instead of carrying a cane or finding a trained canine companion, people with poor vision may eventually be able to go about their daily lives with the help of non-intrusive smart glasses. Surprisingly, nothing is attached to the brain or the eyes. Instead, OxSight uses computer vision techniques and cameras. Similarly, eSight has created a lightweight headset that uses a high-speed HD camera, two OLED displays and algorithmically processed video to create an awareness of surrounding environments. The company has currently sold 1,000 units, but they aren’t cheap at $10,000 per headset. Despite the cost, many would argue that the ability to see is priceless. As 70 million people worldwide are blind, there’s a clear market for this miracle tech.
3. Health trackers at work
For the last few years, employers have increasingly pushed wearables on their staff. Once you get over the unsettling idea of constant monitoring, tracking workers’ health could be incredibly advantageous – to both the employer and the employee. For example, startup Spire has created a wearable breathing tracker that, according to Stanford University researchers, reduces stress and negativity in wearers. Another human analytics company called Humanyze has created biometric badges that track social activity to improve collaboration and communication. However, there are no clearly defined laws around when an employer can track an employee, so regulations need to be ironed out if workplace wearables are to see mass adoption.
4. Robotic Physical Therapists
Sufferers of cerebral palsy endure hours of physical therapy, usually completed at a doctor’s surgery or at home. Repeating the same actions over and over again is boring for an adult, let alone for a child – but researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have found a way to turn the vital physio into an entertaining game. Their answer is Darwin, a mini humanoid robot that uses a 3D motion tracker to follow the movements of the patient. By giving encouragement and demonstrating movements, Darwin makes physiotherapy far more engaging. The little robot represents a new trend in HealthTech that uses advanced robots as carers and companions.
5. AI brain scans
Is there anything Artificial Intelligence can’t do? Earlier this year, researchers at the University of North Carolina developed AI-powered brain scans that revealed the likelihood of autism in 148 babies. As well as this, the software predicts whether the child will be diagnosed with the disorder when they reach the age of two. At the moment, it’s difficult and costly to get hold of child brain scans for important replication tests. This new method is well worth investment, however, as by detecting autism at such an early stage, parents and doctors are better prepared to improve autistic children’s lives. In future, it won’t just be autism that the scans are able to detect.
The above advances in medical technology show the scope for development, especially when it comes to certain demographics (like the visually impaired) who had not yet benefitted from the tech revolution. They’re also an example of how HealthTech is gradually moving outside of medical institutions and into new spaces like the home, and, well. . . space. Despite the influx of research into HealthTech, there are still setbacks to the use of technology in healthcare. For example, Darwin proved to be a concerning concept for children because it was clearly life-like but not actually alive. However, technological adoption is constantly expanding. Eventually, patients will be more inclined to accept advanced technology as an invaluable tool.