6 Medical Technology Trends We’ve Seen During COVID-19
Instacart deliveries, Zoom happy hours, and chatbot interactions: It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has changed how we work and play each day. If anything, technology has made us more resilient during an era of social distancing and quarantines.
But what healthcare technology trends have emerged during the pandemic? While it’s hard to tell what the healthcare industry will look like post-pandemic, companies and healthcare facilities alike have widely adopted or innovated new health technologies.
That said, here are 6 medical technology trends we’ve seen.
Telehealth (also known as telemedicine) providers like Teladoc reported a daily increase in video requests to more than 15,000 during the coronavirus outbreak.
Telemedicine allows you to set up a virtual appointment with a board-certified doctor, get an immediate diagnosis and receive the appropriate treatment. And it’s all made possible through technology: laptops, smartphones, apps and video chat systems.
These 3 factors might explain why telemedicine is on the rise now more than ever:
- Patients can reduce their risk of COVID-19 exposure while getting care for non-emergency health conditions (think allergies, common colds, and skin rashes). Telemedicine also keeps healthcare providers and frontline workers safer.
- Feelings of stress, anxiety, and isolation have understandably been on the rise due to COVID-19, so people have managed their mental health using this virtual healthcare technology to talk with a therapist online.
- The federal government has relaxed Medicare’s technology regulations around telemedicine to give seniors greater access to remote healthcare services.
Health insurance companies are widely embracing telehealth services, too. A recent survey by our direct-to-consumer site, healthinsurance.com, revealed that nearly 30% of respondents have heard about telemedicine benefits through their insurance companies.
#2. Wearables and Monitoring Devices
The market value of wearable technology was $27 billion in 2019. It’s expected to rise to $74 billion by 2025.
Wearables are devices that record and store health data of patients to manage their lifestyle and medical conditions. And they have become one of the most impressive healthcare technology trends during COVID-19.
When we think of wearables, our minds may go to fitness trackers and smartwatches like Fitbit or the Apple Watch. But devices like glucose monitors, electrocardiogram monitors and blood pressure monitors have kept vulnerable people healthy at home if they can’t go see a doctor during COVID-19.
But the question still remains: Can wearables help us combat the coronavirus disease?
Researchers in Chicago have developed a wearable device that could catch early signs of COVID-19 and monitor patients who have the illness. This device produces health data and uses artificial intelligence (AI) to uncover insights from coughing and respiratory activity.
This wearable sensor sits at the base of the throat where it monitors coughing patterns, chest wall movements, body temperature, and more. Then, it sends data to a HIPAA-compliant cloud, where automated algorithms produce graphical summaries to healthcare professionals who treat the patients.
The sensor is still in its early stages of development, and several companies are exploring how they can deploy this medical technology. But it seems that wearables may go from tracking our everyday health and activity to potentially tracking a virus.
Biometric devices may be somewhat controversial due to privacy concerns, but they’ve become an emerging healthcare technology trend during COVID-19.
As one example, biometric thermal imaging systems have been increasingly hitting the market as a way to detect elevated skin temperatures. Some companies have developed thermal imaging cameras that scan body temperatures of those entering a certain space (airports, hospitals, cruise ships) to detect coronavirus cases early on.
In Germany, DERMALOG has deployed fever detection cameras at Scandinavian Park, a shopping mall and rest stop that sits at the border of Germany and Denmark. DERMALOG’s system is also equipped with features that can detect if a person is wearing a mask.
#4. Chatbots and Robots
When thinking of a chatbot, we might think of Siri, Alexa, or even the virtual “How may I assist you today?” customer service rep who pops up during an online shopping experience. But now, we have Clara, a chatbot who can guide you through a Coronavirus self-checker on the CDC website.
Chatbots are artificial intelligence (AI) software programs that talk with people through voice or text in their native language. More recently, chatbots have become a legitimate healthcare technology trend to share information: Thousands have been built during the coronavirus pandemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been using chatbots on their websites to provide real-time COVID-19 updates to their website visitors.
Meanwhile in China, healthcare robots are hard at work in hospitals, checking temperatures, dispensing hand sanitizer, and cleaning hospital equipment and floors with disinfectant.
In fact, robots have been rolling into hospital rooms worldwide, allowing frontline healthcare workers to remotely take temperatures and measure the blood pressure of COVID-19 patients.
And, thanks to robotics in healthcare, people can connect with their otherwise isolated family members who live in nursing homes – like this example from Haven Homes in Maple Plain, Minnesota.
#5. 3D Printing
3D printing is one medical technology trend that is helping frontline workers on an international scale throughout this pandemic. This method is being used to manufacture essential medical supplies like face masks, shields, testing swabs, and ventilators. And many 3D printing/manufacturing companies are supporting this important effort in impactful ways.
One hospital in Brescia, Italy, recently ran out of respiratory valves that connect patients to breathing machines. That’s when engineering firm, Isinnova, stepped in to fill the gaps and meet the demands.
Issinova teamed up with local manufacturing company, Lonati, to mass produce the valves via 3D printing technology. The company collaboration produced 100 respirator valves in the matter of 24 hours.
Another example: Stratasys, a global 3D printing manufacturer, connected with healthcare professionals at places like the Mayo Clinic and Medtronic to gauge what supplies healthcare workers needed most. And “face shields” was a common response.
Working with a number of partner companies, Stratasys printed and shipped 100,000 face shields (and counting) to hospitals and first responders, thanks to 3D printing.
#6. Virtual Reality
It’s an understatement to say that quarantine and lockdown restrictions have disrupted our daily lives, leaving many with feelings of isolation. In fact, a recent poll revealed that nearly 45% of Americans said their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress.
But virtual reality platforms (VR) like Rec Room and Bigscreen have responded with VR technology that allows people to explore travel destinations, go on a virtual safari, or spend some down time in a virtual garden or at a beach.
It’s been reported that these technologies have helped people to feel calm, connected and entertained during a chaotic period.
One company, XRHealth, has also developed a virtual reality telehealth support group platform to combat loneliness and isolation while avoiding the spread of COVID-19. Those facing anxiety, chronic pain, substance abuse, cancer and more can also get support from like-minded individuals through this emerging health technology.
So what’s the next big thing in medical technology? Maybe we’ll see more healthcare robots, drones or wearable devices.
It seems that sky’s the limit with companies evolving at such a rapid pace. But if there’s one positive thing that has come out of COVID-19, it’s innovation.