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Advances in medical technology

Jun 17, 2022

By Alex Paikada,

The aging population

The developed world is aging fast. And countries outside of the middle east and Africa are veering in the same direction. Counties like Japan, South Korea, and China will have to deal with a huge senile segment of the population in the near future. The recent advent of covid-19 has put additional pressure on the healthcare sector. Another demographic factor that catalyzed the advances in health care is the emergence of a strong middle class that is susceptible to many lifestyle diseases and has the wherewithal to avail of the most advanced health care options.

Technology and advances in diagnosis

Against this backdrop, advances in sophisticated diagnosis and smart clinical decision-making have recently made more impressive technological inroads. From the stage of magnifying glasses and stethoscopes, medical science has made strong and bold strides in recent years when it comes to taking a peep into the internal organs and their functional status. The impact of almost every invention, including those in the defense industry, has a healthcare dimension too. The modern diagnostic technologies are an insightful integration of the advances in various strands of technologies such as communication, the internet, electronics, chemistry, robotics, artificial intelligence, and photonics, to name a few. To accommodate the new technological developments, adequate front-runner legislations are also required. As always, the western democracies are likely to be pioneers here too. 

In recent years diagnosis and focused prognostication are not the art and prerogative of the doctors. More than ever, machines are entering the rarified territory confidently. Even then, doctors will continue to have the final word whilst taking critical decisions.

Radiology and Medical imaging such as X-ray, CT, MRI, ultrasound, and PET are used for getting an insight into the internal organs. Depending on the merit of the situation, they are prescribed to identify the disorder inside the body.

Telemedicine and Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) is gaining ground across the world. Here many of the logistical impediments are done away with. People could link up with the best professionals in the field and time-space constraints fade into impertinence in prompt and professional service delivery. The collective decision, putting the heads of the experts in the field together, though they are continents apart, is another promising area. Digital therapeutics have eased out the tedious process of regular care for chronic patients. Innovative apps and software are in place already to monitor and report the cause and effect pattern of various medication regimes, administered to patients continents apart. Cancer, anxiety, musculoskeletal pain, ADHD, asthma, migraines, insomnia, and substance abuse are some of the areas digital therapeutics would play a major role in the future.

One of the newly fanged technologies is 3D printing. This technology, which is poised to take over the design and construction industry, has migrated to the health care arena also. Customized wares and body parts, exactly matching the anatomy and physiology of the patient is going to be a tangible reality. Perfectly fitting prosthetics, cranial or orthopedic implants, and custom airway stents are some of the areas where 3D printing is going to make a strong presence. There are efforts to print human tissue and when it becomes a reality, organ transplants may become a thing of the past and cosmetic surgeries would take an altogether new dimension.

Data management and data analyses are being taken over by AI for good. Costly and even fatal Diagnostic Errors could be minimized or even preempted through Electronic Clinical Documentation. Manual error and time constraints are effectively minimized by the newly fanged methodologies. The modern AI-powered tools facilitate easy retrieval of accurate, timely, and reliable native and imported data; Easy retrieval of accurate, timely, and reliable native and imported data; and are amenable to different levels of processing and sifting.

Data displays are more lucid and insightful facilitating easy navigation, easing the operational workload, and information is easily sharable. Data, covering the whole globe, running into billions of documents, could be processed in no time and data interpretation will not be a daunting task. Already, data management availing of AI capabilities is in vogue to generate one click away taxonomies and categories as per the analytical requirements.   The Internet of medical things is an offshoot of the internet of things, which is likely to gain more acceptability in the future. Remote patient monitoring, 5g-enabled devices, wearable sensors, etc. are likely to be the new normal. Thousands of web-enabled medical devices are already at work to deliver ever-fresh data regarding the patients being monitored. The possibilities opened up by VR and computer simulation would bolster the new drug design and trials with lesser chances of risk. Pharmacological and pathological studies could become more efficient in due course.

Nanorobots and small-sized robots are capable of performing miracles such as going inside the blood vessels and investigating obstacles and constrictions. Robotic surgery, which could be monitored from any part of the world, is pregnant with many promises. Such operations are minimally invasive, more focused, less likely to cause infection, and easy to heal. Guided robotic explorations inside the body can potentially reach out to any sacrosanct parts of the body such as the brain to trace out and weed out malicious growths and abnormalities.

One of the major concerns of modern civilization is carcinogenesis and treatment. Cancer can be an induced one or an inherited mutation. Industrialization and urbanization have inadvertently opened up Pandora’s box of deleterious chemicals and radiation in the biosphere. Many of them, beyond a threshold, are mutagenic and in many cases mutagenicity is likely to be the highway to carcinogenicity. In Israel, the US, and many other western industrial democracies, intense research has been on to tame this ruthless killer malady. Many of the remedies available now demand a physiological, psychological, metabolic, or cosmetic pound of flesh. And certain types of cancers are still not amenable to proper treatment and cure. But immunotherapy has recently triggered much hope. The fundamental philosophy in this system is that genetically modifies cells are engaged to bolster the inherent immune system. The vigilant immune system could trace and destroy the rogue cells into runaway cell division cytosis, by a discerning precision strike. In this process collateral damage inflicted on neighboring benign cells is almost nil and thus the post-treatment trauma is no anymore a clinical deterrent.

The patent landscape

Against this backdrop, let us take a look at the prevailing technological environment in medical diagnostics. Relecura offers beautiful insights into the target technology landscape. The few clicks away readymade reports available on Techtracker, hosted by Relecura, are quite useful in bringing out meaningful and pregnant information about companies, technologies, competitors, etc. Here reports about Medical imaging, essential for modern diagnostics and medical robotics to perform intricate and even delicate scouting and remedial measures, are focused upon. Please find hereunder the links to those reports:

Medical imaging: https://tracker.relecura.com/index.php/dashboard/openShareLink/072139e2bc5da435c0cfab3e5c9a1938

Medical robotics: https://tracker.relecura.com/index.php/dashboard/openShareLink/05f52155b70224d9e46f773a9b379d23

Emerging companies and technologies

As for medical imaging, China, the US, Japan, and Korea are the leading geographies with China having a strong upper hand. In 2017 there were 5000 patents in the area and from 2018 onwards a remarkable upward trend is visible, so much so that in 2021 the patent assets swelled to 9000. The top companies in dominating the scene are Canon, Philips, Siemens, Fujifilm, United Imaging Healthcare, Samsung, Toshiba, Sony, GE, IBM, etc. The top technologies are diagnosis and surgery, image data processing, health informatics, data presentation, data processing, optical elements, therapeutic devices, measurement, etc.

The emerging technologies are Artificial neural networks [ANN], processing medical images, e.g. editing, Obtaining sets of training patterns; Bootstrap methods, e.g. bagging, boosting, remote o operation of medical equipment or devices, and Classification of physiological signals or data, e.g. using neural networks, statistical classifiers, expert systems or fuzzy systems >> involving training the classification device. The emerging companies are GE PRECISION HEALTHCARE LLC, TENCENT, SHANGHAI UNITED IMAGING INTELLIGENCE HEALTHCARE CO LTD, PING AN TECHNOLOGY, MINFOUND MEDICAL SYSTEMS CO LTD, BOSCH, ASAN FOUND, GE PREC HEALTHCARE LLC, SHANGHAI SHANGTANG INTELLIGENT TECH CO LTD, GE PRECISION MEDICINE LLC, SHANGHAI UNITED IMAGING INTELLIGENCE CO LTD, and a few others.

 In medical robotics, the momentum of innovations has increased recently. The patent database has laterally exploded from 10649 to 34284 over the past five years. China, the US, and Japan are the leading performers in the area. The top technologies are manipulators, diagnosis& Surgery, electric elements, digital data processing, conveyors, plastics shaping, testing materials, image data processing, etc. The emerging technologies include ICT for therapies or health-improving plans, e.g. for handling prescriptions, for steering therapy or for monitoring patient compliance, machine learning, ICT for the handling or processing of patient-related, ICT for medical diagnosis, medical simulation or medical data mining; ICT specially adapted for detecting, monitoring or modeling epidemics or pandemics, program-controlled manipulators, etc.

The emerging companies are VERB SURGICAL INC, UBTECH ROBOTICS CORP, MUJIN INC, GUANGDONG BRIGHT DREAM ROBOTICS CO LTD, MEDICAROID CORP, CHENGDU BORNS MEDICAL ROBOTICS INC, UIPATH INC, BERKSHIRE GREY OPERATING COMPANY INC, CHINA RAILWAY CONSTRUCTION, WUHAN UNITED IMAGING ZHIRONG MED TECH CO LTD, SHENZHEN HAIROU INNOVATION TECH CO LTD, and many others. It is worth noting that most of the emerging companies are of Chinese origin.

For more information about companies and technologies do take a look at the Techtracker tool offered by Relecura.

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