Disruptive Healthcare Trends: 5 Innovations to Look for in 2020
From blockchain to 3D printing – we’ve pinpointed the biggest tech trends in health innovation and what they mean for healthcare in 2020. You’re likely familiar with many of these trends, however, advances in the industry have allowed for new applications which are redefining the patient experience.
Blockchain technology is most often associated with its utility in the storage of cryptocurrency as a distributed digital ledger. When a transaction is initiated, it is validated through algorithms and added to the ledger – creating a new block on the blockchain. This technology is thought to be the most secure way to store data because it is so difficult to hack.
What’s new? More than 59% of the U.S. population experienced a healthcare-related data breach from 2009 to 2018. Due to this, data privacy and security will continue to be one of the most talked about subjects in healthcare in 2020. Fortunately, many healthcare organizations – about 20 percent – have already deployed blockchain and that number is expected to grow. There is potential for the birth of a singular database of health information via blockchain; the database would prove easily accessible and consolidate previously isolated databases. Seamless data exchange processes equate to accurate diagnoses, improved treatments, and economic efficiency.
Once primarily used to track data from physical exercise, wearable devices have transitioned into effective tools for healthcare providers . Wearables allow for the sharing of a patient’s health-related data in real-time, keeping researchers and HCPs abreast on potential health decline or adverse events.
What’s new? Wearables that can go home with the patient are being increasingly approved for medical use by the FDA. Take for instance, the Monarch eTNS system, a wallet-sized device designed to work in tandem with a small patch placed on a patient’s forehead. It may sound unorthodox, but this combination works as a treatment for ADHD patients – one of five take-home medical devices approved in 2019. These devices have also proven utility in the clinical trial space when linked to a digital application configured to conduct studies virtually. Companies like ObvioHealth can pair to devices like Bluetooth scales, blood pressure monitors, and activity trackers to transmit real-time data back to research staff.
Single Cell Mapping Genomics
2020 will see the continued shift away from bulk cell genomic mapping to single-cell and spatial genomic mapping. In the past, researchers have approached the goal of mapping the entire human body by analyzing millions of cells at one time. However, the isolation of single cells allows for genomic mapping to better understand DNA changes to an individual cell.
What’s new: With initiatives like the Human Cell Atlas, scientists are beginning to understand the differences among cell types, discovering implications for cell lineages, disease states, and individual traits. These learnings can be applied to the advancement of precision medicine to fight diseases like cancer. Companies like 10x Genomics are focusing on integrating spatial genomics with single-cell analysis to measure gene activity in a tissue sample to better understand disease pathology.
Artificial intelligence has demonstrated the capacity to modernize the way we diagnose disease, allowing for increased speed and accuracy. A research report published in Sept. 2019 set the framework for AI, specifically deep learning, to surpass HCP disease detection capabilities in the not-so-distant future. The report notes that although AI doesn’t currently overwhelm the proficiency of human diagnostics, it can identify disease with accuracy equal to an HCP.
What’s new? We will continue to see companies take advantage of the accuracy of AI to diagnose disease. Take, for instance, Magnosco’s DermaFC device, which simplifies the (early) diagnosis of malignant melanoma via laser technology and a proprietary machine learning algorithm. Or Fibronostics’ LIVERFASt™ technology, which similarity implements machine learning, but with a blood-based diagnostic test, to screen for signs of liver disease. Both are effective non-invasive diagnostic solutions.
In the U.S. alone, 20 people die each day waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. As the industry inches toward 3D printed organs, one specific innovation can buy sick organs more time: tissue patches.
What’s new? Although not yet capable of reproducing a fully-functional synthetic human organ, the company Organovo has developed 3D bio-printed living human liver tissue patches that can extend the life of a patient with fatal liver disease. The partial human transplants will undergo testing in human trials in 2020. Cardiac patches have also been created by researchers at Tel Aviv University. Once transplanted, the healthy tissue patch has the potential regenerate a once defective heart. More long-term studies are required, but expect this type of technology to gain momentum in the coming year.