The Increased Demand for Medical Devices

The average person doesn’t sit around thinking about medical devices. However, when the Covid-19 pandemic beckoned the attention of the global economy, the scarcity of medical devices such as ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) to meet the demands of hospitals was a pervasive, hot bedded topic.

Besides the cost-cutting impact that medical devices have on the healthcare industry, they also help to save and enhance people’s lives.

According to the FDA, a medical device is an instrument or an apparatus used in the diagnosing, preventing, and treatment of a medical condition. A medical device can be something as innocuous as a band-aid and as complex as an MRI machine. Currently, our not-so-favorite medical device is that darn COVID-19 testing kit. We all bore witness to the speed in which these testing kits were placed on the market. The demand called for it.

More recently, medical devices companies are playing an integral role in the healthcare industry with the behemoth task of helping the public adapt to innovative ways of doing healthcare outside the familiarity of a clinic setting.

For example, at the height of the pandemic, Telehealth wasn’t just an option among many; it was the only option to help stop the spread of Covid-19. Of course, this form of doctor’s visits (done virtually), did pose some challenges in the beginning–in particularly with the demographic of patients who are less technology savvy. However, many people have seen the benefits of skipping the long waits at the doctor’s office.

For Pathway NPI, the pandemic strengthened our commitment to collaborating with medical device companies that are innovative and solution-oriented.
Recent reports suggest that the medical device industry is poised to be valued at $800 billion by 2030. Today, we want to explore future trends in the medical device industry and what it means for you, an innovator, and the general public.

Technological Advancements in Medical Device Design

One of our lines of services is design ideation and engineering. Over time, the technologies and designs used for medical devices have changed dramatically. For example, a modern cardiac pacemaker has multiple times the number of transistors (basic units in an integrated circuit) than NASA had when it landed men on the moon. Similarly, even noninvasive devices such as infusion pumps and oxygen concentrators have experienced makeovers.

Similarly, newer materials used for the development of medical devices such as advanced polymers have made it both cost-effective and easier to build high-quality products. In addition, the use of more recent technologies has also resulted in a decline in the size of many critical medical devices such as artificial hearts.

Dedicated research institutions and medical device development companies such as Pathway NPI find ways to enhance medical device design to make it practical, safe, and user-friendly.

The Digitalization of Medical Devices

The digital age has made almost everything in our lives accessible with the use of a network. For example, computers, televisions, watches, and even cars can all be controlled over wireless networks. Medical devices are no exception. In fact, they can be connected to computer networks using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies.

Digital connectivity doesn’t only allow medical professionals such as doctors, physical therapists, and nurses a lot of flexibility while using the device, it also helps extract data on its performance and usage patterns.

While digitalization is increasing ease of use for medical devices, in the long run, it is also introducing new challenges. For example, although most medical devices have sensors to detect their internal workings and/or communicate with external computers or systems (pacemakers can send signals about operations or an infusion pump can inform doctors about its performance), these sensors are not accurate all of the time. This is a problem we at Pathway NPI address with help of advanced technology, applications, and artificial intelligence.

Innovative Devices

The definition of what constitutes a medical device may vary depending on what part of the world you live in. What China might see as a Class II device, we in the U.S might see as either a Class I or Class III device. In most countries, medical devices are an integral part of the healthcare delivery process.

No matter where you are in the world, safety should be paramount. The use of the wrong medical device on the wrong body part can result in severe injury or even death. Some devices are simple, but impactful in treating certain conditions. For example, a saline bag (used to provide better blood flow) consists of two bags with one containing salt solution and another plain water. If the tubes connecting the two bags are kept closed, then there is no mixing of the salt solution and water.

On the other hand, some devices are complex. For instance, medical systems that consist of computers can have thousands of lines of source code to ensure safety. These devices are vulnerable to hacking than simpler ones since they can be programmed. A prime example is an automatic defibrillator that can be programmed to deliver shocks only when needed. This device is usually controlled by some external computer resulting in a feedback loop, where data is collected and analyzed to improve the device (and that process goes on and on until an error-free system is achieved).

Incorporating Futuristic Tech for Medical Devices

The use of drones in healthcare has become increasingly popular recently. For example, in the case of search and rescue operations, a drone can fly over mountains and difficult terrain while transmitting live images on the condition of survivors back to the rescuers and medical responders.

Less dramatically, medical drones are used to deliver supplies and medication to people in rural areas. Also, medical drones are used in clinical settings to help mitigate concerns of health providers who are at an increased risk for exposure to harmful pathogens now more than ever.

A medical drone is another type of medical device that’s convenient, cost-effective, and helps in preventative medicine. The use of medical drones during cataclysmic natural disasters such as tornadoes and tsunami makes them an integral part of the overall healthcare system.

Other technologies are showing up regularly in medical devices such as 3D Printing, a service that we render during the Design and Engineering stage. The most important advantage of 3D Printing is that it saves on cost and time by eliminating the need for molding and other conventional manufacturing processes. The technology has been used in many different fields such as automobile manufacturing, but its use in medical devices requires extensive testing to ensure that printed parts are both durable and safe for the public.

In addition, 3D printing technology can be used to create a temporary implant for the human body. For example, damaged eyes may require an implant that can allow for clear vision. Digital design tools make it possible for a doctor to draw a model of an eye (while considering other features like the iris shape and skin color), which is then 3D printed on-site in a matter of minutes.

Overall, medical device technology is going to focus more on prevention and early disease detection. For example, a chip implanted under the skin could detect cancer cells in real-time by essentially monitoring the body’s internal environment 24/7. This kind of microchip may also be useful as a personal fitness tracker, a way to monitor heart activity, and even as a combination of all those features.

Other Predictors for Medical Devices in 2021 and Beyond

While the world seems to be at standstill, medical device companies are working tirelessly to develop medical devices that will help the public adjust to their current “new normal.” Also, as the pandemic continues to loom over our heads, the healthcare system is being hit financially. Consequently, introducing medical devices that can help alleviate this financial burden is ideal.
Let’s look at some areas in the medical device industry that will have high visibility for the upcoming year:

Wearable Technology

The medical device industry predicts a surge in wearable technology. The more that doctors tell their patients “Call before you show up or don’t show up at all to the office,” wearable technology can assist medical providers in monitoring the progress or decline in their patients’ health–and vital signs such as blood pressure and pulse.

Also, we can attribute the popularity of wearable technology such as digital wristbands due to the public being more health-conscious and taking a more active role in their health due to the pandemic.

Wearable technology has evolved from devices that help you count fitness steps to ones that help you help count heartbeats.

Overall, wearable technology is essential for preventative medicine which is aimed at having a positive impact on the healthcare industry’s bottomline.

The Internet of Medical Things

The Internet of Medical Things(IoMT) is a network of information from medical devices and applications which is shared on secured IT networks (It also works via Wifi). Big proponents of this technology are hospitals and clinics that need information on patients at record speed.

One of the many benefits of IoMT is medical providers’ capabilities of accessing patients’ results remotely. Additionally, it has cost-cutting benefits due to assisting medical providers in making accurate diagnoses and rendering appropriate treatment.

Needless to say, our current climate benefits from any technology that helps to improve the public’s quality of life. It’s no wonder that IoMT is poised for continued growth in 2021 and beyond.

Telehealth

We’ve touched on Telehealth briefly at the beginning of this blog, but let’s dig a little deeper to explore its history and future. For many, during the pandemic is their first experience seeing a doctor virtually or speaking with them over the phone for an extended period of time. However, Telehealth is something that patients who live in rural areas or areas deemed as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) have experienced since 2002 when it was first introduced by Medicare.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Telehealth was used complementary in fields of Medicine such as Psychiatry, Dermatology, Obstetrics, and even Stroke Care. Now, during the pandemic, it is taking center stage. The Trump Administration, with help of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), added more services regarding Telehealth. This helped to ignite the charge in helping medical providers care for the patients from a distance.

It’s projected that medical device tools related to Telehealth such as smart devices and sensors will be worth $13 billion by 2026.

Artificial Intelligence

Thanks to the pandemic, Covid-19 pandemic, Artificial Intelligence(AI) and Machine Learning (ML) tools have increased in demand to help capture information through diagnostic testing aimed at knowing how to treat patients. The beauty of this area of technology is the voluminous amount of data medical device manufacturers can obtain to create medical devices like wearable technology and sensors that can monitor patients’ vital signs and other factors.

Enhanced Cybersecurity

We all share the excitement of seeing new medical devices coming onto the market due to the pandemic. However, this opens the door to opportunistic hackers. As a matter of fact, pacemakers and infusion pumps are notorious for being prone for hacking.

With all this new technology, especially the ones medical providers can access remotely, it’s imperative that medical providers protect patients’ PHI due to HIPPA law.

The FDA encourages medical device manufacturers to strengthen their cybersecurity controls to mitigate cyberterrorism and unauthorized release of patients’ medical records.

Also, Medicare issued the caveat that patients shouldn’t set up Telehealth appointments with providers they don’t know. Unfortunately, scammers can use this as a means to collect sensitive intel such as credit card and bank account information.

Hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices must prioritize Cybersecurity. If not, it will leave them open to malware that can disrupt their entire I.T. system.

Genomics

Genomics is the study of DNA sequencing to discover ways. to treat certain medical conditions on the molecular level. Covid-19 helped to expand this area of science due to scientists’ desperate need to learn about this impactful virus. The project value of the global market for Genomics related medical devices is said to soar $47 billion in 2025.

A Rise in Medical Robots

Similar to medical drones, medical robots are “scrubbing in” and assisting surgeons during surgeries and postoperatively. Their presence in healthcare settings accomplishes countless things like having an “essential worker” that doesn’t have to wear a mask in fear of getting infected by COVID, can disinfect clinic settings without having to don on PPE and that can check on patients while healthcare providers tend to other patients. Should healthcare workers fear that these robots might steal their jobs? Not just yet. These medical robots are here to play a supporting role that will help providers deliver safe and timely medical care.

The use of medical robots in Telehealth will be a game-changer for medical providers who may need to run a test on a patient while he or she is home. Medical robots can also administer medications or help detect signs of COVID-19 or even a heart attack. This may help shape the homecare industry as well.

Virtual Reality

When ushering in 2022, Virtual Reality might be the “talk of the town” given its revolutionary capabilities for both healthcare providers and patients. Student doctors and nurses can practice their skills by way of using goggles or a helmet that gives off computer-generated simulation of virtual patients and their problem areas. Virtual Reality is also being used in the field of Mental Health to help treat conditions like anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

The hands-off approach especially in the time of COVID makes a welcomed medical device.

3D Printing

3D printing technology or Additive Manufacturing, a service that we at Pathway NPI offer during the medical device design and manufacturing stages, can be used to virtually replicate medical devices, organs, and almost anything used for the delivery of care. Like Virtual Reality, 3D Printing helps the healthcare team get a panoramic view of the object being researched and discussed.

Just like with anything, trends are fleeting and can become obsolete. However, when it comes to the healthcare field, newer technology and trends build on top of existing trends. We’re anticipating surges in the demand for the aforementioned trends, but that doesn’t mean they’re the new kids on the block. Medical device manufacturers and industry leaders are just finding new ways to meet the demands of a fragile healthcare system. The overarching goal of the medical device industry is to develop and manufacture cost-cutting and preventative medical devices that will improve the public’s quality of health.

Staying abreast with industry trends helps the experts at Pathway NPI better assist you with your medical device needs. We’re not telling you to follow trends; however, the current one gives a glimpse of what direction healthcare technology is heading in.

If you’re interested in developing, designing, or manufacturing medical devices, Pathway NPI is here to help. We’ll help you strategize how you

Please contact us today with questions regarding the development or manufacturing of your medical device.