Healthcare services and insurance have been hot topics in the U.S. for years. Presidential elections generate the most buzz on how quality of care and affordability will change. However, medical equipment is a less discussed, equally important industry. For example, HospiMedica Daily Clinical News stated that the medical device industry will grow by 2.8% in 2017 and in the next five years. Experts deem evolving technology, policies, and cybersecurity to be the most prominent factors in 2018 that impact the medical equipment industry.
Predictive maintenance increases device uptime.
Using functional medical equipment is critical to monitoring patient health factors, diagnostics, and providing quality treatment. Machine learning is one of the latest technologies used to maximize device health. Recently, the UCSF Medical Center started using Glassbeam technology to maintain their imaging equipment. Glassbeam launched the first Healthcare Industrial IoT (Internet of Things) blueprint in the industry, which aims to make medical devices last longer. Companies that use predictive maintenance technology to report performance data can can replace malfunctioning parts well before failure, which is cost-effective for both end-users and patients. According to UCSF Medical Center professionals, it can take up to 40 hours to replace a broken part, which they hope to reduce with machine learning. UCSF also later hopes to expand machine learning to their other devices over time.
Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) product development expanding.
According to the Internet of Things Institute, healthcare has been the most resistant to IoT technology until recently. In fact, Allied Market Research reports state that the IoT healthcare market will reach $136.8 billion by 2021 worldwide. The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) includes devices and apps with sensors that report data to healthcare IT systems. IoMT devices can range from wearables that monitor bodily factors, to portable diagnostic devices for blood and urine tests. Rising life expectancy, increase in chronic diseases, and demand for lower healthcare costs primarily drives IoMT demand. Connected medical devices largely help elderly people who can’t always physically see doctors. Remote caregivers can also learn about patient lifestyles and find out if they’re pushing their boundaries. IoMT isn’t intended to replace doctors, but to use data reported by devices to develop better diagnostics and treatments.
Cloud healthcare devices face cyber-security challenges.
Although cloud medical equipment and machines are becoming more common, security is at risk. According to May Wang, CTO of Zingbox, healthcare endures more hacking than the financial sector. When devices are connected to large hospital networks, hackers may get access to sensitive patient information. According to Health Tech Magazine, investing in cyber defense is critical in medical environments that implement the Internet of Things. Some companies may also consider outsourcing cyber-security work to save money. The most important connected medical device security steps to take are: developing a security breach plan, using an easy-to-follow procedure, and using automation software for analytics reporting and protection from larger threats.
3D product prototyping becoming more accessible.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has been outshining mass production in many industries other than medical technology. Thankfully, more medical manufacturers will access 3D printers in 2018 and beyond, according to Koncept Analytics. 3D printing uses Computer Aided Design to stack raw materials, which creates a 3D mockup of the finished product. This method is more accurate, faster, and economical than traditional mass production. This year, nScrypt recently developed 3D medical implant prototypes with embedded sensors and circuits. nScrypt is a Florida-based 3D printer manufacturer that develops industrial 3D technology products for many applications. For the medical implant prototype, nScrypt developers used FDA compliant materials, made to monitor a user’s health conditions.
Medical equipment technology continues to rapidly evolve throughout the twists and turns the industry experiences. Implementing the latest medical device technology advances is costly and challenging at first, but can deliver exceptional patient care in the long run. But just like with any industry, strategically implementation is the key, which makes or breaks company success.