Technology Trends in Healthcare, Q4 2022

Dec. 19, 2022   |   Updated 1:44 PM ET

Medical technology changes at a rapid pace, requiring healthcare providers to invest in new equipment in order to stay current, provide the highest quality care and remain competitive. Firms may choose to lease equipment to minimize up-front costs, or purchase. Let’s take a look at what the healthcare sector is currently investing in.

Electronic Health Records (EHR)
EHR systems store patient information digitally, capture real-time information and help firms manage care more effectively. More sophisticated systems can provide diagnostic analysis and offer treatment plans. Congress authorizes incentive funding for healthcare providers to use and upgrade EHR systems to improve operations. Long-term plans for EHR include standardizing patient record formats to allow information sharing between healthcare providers.

Practice Management Systems
Healthcare providers invest in practice management software to automate patient scheduling, billing, accounting, and reporting functions. Practice management systems are now available via the Internet in “Software as a Service” (SaaS) versions that eliminate the need for physician practices to purchase and manage computer servers.

Medical & Diagnostic Equipment
Medical equipment used to diagnose and treat patients can be expensive. This technology includes magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) machines, ultrasound equipment, fluoroscopes, therapeutic lasers, vital sign monitors, laboratory equipment, surgical robots, and health wearables. Specialized equipment tends to be more expensive than generalized equipment. A multi-physician practice may purchase one piece of equipment and share it to reduce cost and increase its utilization rate.

Health Wearables
Health wearables are devices that are worn or attached to the body to track vital information or administer medication. Examples include smart watches that measure heart rhythm and sleep patterns, glucose readers attached to the body that allow diabetics to digitally scan and read their blood sugar levels without pricking fingers, and portable oxygen machines the size of a purse.

Telehealth
Telehealth allows healthcare providers to communicate with patients over a smart device. Healthcare providers use telehealth to diagnose ailments, share test results, renew prescriptions, conduct follow-up visits, and monitor patient progress over video chat or phone call. Telehealth eliminates the need for patients or healthcare workers to travel for a face-to-face visit. The use of telehealth services increased significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Surgical Robots
Surgical robots provide precision, flexibility and control to physicians while performing complex procedures. Robots may be combined with augmented reality technology to provide real-time information (blood pressure, heart rate) to the physician during the procedure. Robots are typically used in minimally invasive procedures that are performed through small incisions. Generally, one arm includes a camera and the other is equipped with various surgical instruments. The surgeon controls the arms from a console near the operating table with a monitor that magnifies and provides a high-definition 3D view of the surgical site.

Customized Medicine
This form of medicine uses the patient’s genetic code to customize treatment to the individual. Physicians can use customized medicine to select treatments or medicines that are more effective. In the case of cancer, customized medication can be produced based on the patient’s genes and proteins to attack and more easily destroy tumors. Customized medicine is also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis by attacking the genes of the disease and weaken its effect on the patient.

CRISPR
CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) is a technology used to modify the genes of bacteria to kill viruses. The technology edits infected DNA strands or can be used to turn genes on or off. The technology has the potential to prevent and treat diseases including cancer, HIV and sickle cell anemia. However, the technology is controversial as it could be used to customize DNA.

According to the US Census Bureau, the highest percentage of the US healthcare sector investment is in specialized software (50.6%), followed by Cloud (39.3%), specialized equipment (31.5%) and then AI (3.3%) and Robotics (2.2%).

Source: Vertical IQ, 11/2022
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