Welcome to the Age of Medical Connectivity. Today there are more than 500,000 different types of medical devices—from imaging equipment and POC analyzers to implants and wearables—that are connected directly or indirectly to healthcare databases and networks. The power of these networked devices to turn data into faster, more accurate diagnoses and treatments is overwhelming.
One of the most exciting aspects of this exploding segment is its unique ability to bring more precision and personalization to healthcare than ever before. Connected devices will help highly targeted therapies soar to new levels of effectiveness. The potential for helping to create new, higher benchmarks in clinical care and provider efficiency is, quite simply, enormous. But there are also challenges.
Imprecision is precisely the problem
Healthcare, for all its advances, is still remarkably imprecise. Therapies are designed for the “typical” person rather than around the needs of individual patients. That leads to inconsistent performance, lower than expected outcomes and billions of dollars in unnecessary costs. The high level of variation in care delivery itself makes increasing precision even more challenging. The United Kingdom alone, by one estimate, could save more than $6 billion each year by reducing unwarranted variation across areas in hospitals.
As the connected MedTech universe picks up speed (the market segment is expected to triple in the next five years) what role will it play in advancing our ability to apply the right treatment to the right patient at the right time? Here are 4 of the ways we think MedTech can be expected to drive new levels of precision in medicine:
1) Improve Diagnostic Accuracy: More data can lead to higher accuracy. The explosion of data to be harnessed from expanding MedTech connectivity promises not only a significant reduction in overdiagnosis and overtreatment, but offers new levers for earlier and more effective interventions.
We’ve seen it ourselves in Spain at the Hospital Clinic Barcelona through a joint research project on assessing liver fibrosis in a non-invasive way. By combining a lab test based on blood biomarkers with an advanced ultrasound solution called Acoustic Radiation Force Impulse Imaging the clinic was able to eliminate the need for biopsies entirely while considerably reducing Hepatitis C mortality.
2) Reduce Unwarranted Variations: Digital workflow orchestration and other forms of intelligent and traditional automation are finding their ways into healthcare more and more. Automation paradigms, however, aren’t enough if the technology lacks the ability to adapt to the individual needs of patients.
Studies show, for example, that patient motion during MRI exams costs about $115,000 per scanner each year in lost revenue.  Cameras, sensors and other new imaging techniques—all communicating their data—will certainly help transform the diagnostic environment so that it adapts to the patient’s needs instead of the other way around.
We’re already seeing it in real-time adaptation to head motion in MR imaging, in the unprecedented depth of tissue penetration in ultrasound for increasingly obese populations, and in the reduction of image artifacts caused by implanted devices in magnetic resonance, computed tomography, and angiography imaging. Such advances help improve the patient experience, make results more consistent, and assess disease progress or remission during follow-ups.
3) Personalize When It Matters: We help our customers remove variations when they are unwarranted (where they don’t contribute to value) and, at the same time, support our customers to leverage “omics”, imaging and laboratory data integration and insights to personalize care. The field of Radiation Oncology is one example where we see great opportunities for reaping the potential of such data integration.
Genetic information has already become an important driver in personalizing treatment. Growth in the field of cancer genomics and quick turnaround times in comprehensive molecular profiling are clearly moving targeted cancer therapy towards first line treatment. Today, patients are eligible to receive individualized therapy options tailored to fit their genetic tumor profile, based on a single blood test or tumor sample.
We are expanding our portfolio in this area and the NEO New Oncology diagnostic platform is one example of how we support pathologists and oncologists with comprehensive molecular information to help select targeted cancer therapies.
4) Advance Therapy Outcomes: Advances in precision medicine are expected to have an effect on clinical capabilities. One area already seeing expansion is in the realm of minimally invasive surgery for patients for whom open surgery carries too high of a risk.
At Japan’s Shonan Fujisawa Tokushukai Hospital, robotic-assisted intraoperative quality assurance has cut scoliosis surgery time by half. And the Department of Neurosurgery, Cliniques Universitaires in Sain-Luc Brussels found it reduced the rates of intraoperative screw revision to a tiny 3%—while completely eliminating the need for post-operative screw revision.
Minimally invasive surgery is a game changer both in terms of clinical advances and operational efficiency. No wonder it’s seeing growth rates of over 10% each year.
Medical technology has the power to improve operational efficiency and save money for hospitals willing to take advantage of it
Better outcomes and advances in clinical practice and technique aren’t just around the corner—they’re happening now as healthcare starts leveraging the immense transformative power of connected data to expand precision medicine.