The medical device industry brought in over $400 billion around the world in each of 2019 and 2020. With experts projecting a 6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next few years, the industry should grow to over $600 billion by 2023. This is very healthy growth and is pushing overall healthcare sector growth.
One of the main drivers of these revenues is innovation in the world of medical devices. Technology is influencing every aspect of the medical device space and making these devices smaller, faster, cheaper, more efficient, and more effective. It is helping create medical devices that work better for medical professionals and patients alike.
Industry trends help explain how and why the medical device industry is growing so fast. The most important trends in the industry blend medicine and technology to drive forward both the devices themselves and the industry as a whole. Here are five important medical device trends happening in 2021.
1. Software as a Medical Device (SaMD)
This is a newer category of medical devices where a software program has the capability to act as a medical device. It means that the software must provide a medical benefit, such as diagnosing, treating, or preventing disease. It also means it must do so completely on its own, independently of any other medical device. An app that calculates precise doses of medication based on your personal data or a program that scans MRIs (not associated with the MRI machine) looking for nearly undetectable signs of cancer are examples of SaMD.
SaMD is becoming more and more popular because of the benefits it provides both medical professionals and patients. On the professional side, it makes healthcare more portable and more effective. On the patient side, it gives patients more control over their own healthcare and treatment programs. SaMD can also deliver real-time patient data to physicians, benefiting both physicians and patients. If you’re interested in learning more about this important trend in medical devices, Orthogonal’s SaMD guide has more useful info.
2. Internet of Things (IoT)
As the trends on this list demonstrate, many of the most important developments in medical devices, including SaMD and others, involve devices that are connected to the internet. Any object connected to the internet is considered part of the Internet of Things. In 2021, there is a whole subcategory of the IoT known as the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) that refers only to medical devices connected to the internet.
The IoMT offers healthcare professionals the opportunity to stay connected to patients and their medical devices more than ever. Nurses can monitor a patient’s vitals remotely and smart pill bottles can help physicians “see” if a patient has taken their medication. IoMT can even track down equipment in a hospital more easily in an emergency with internet-connected machinery equipped with GPS. The trend of IoT devices in healthcare is here to stay but does present an issue that developers and the healthcare industry have to work together to help mitigate.
The downside of the IoMT is that, when everything is connected to the internet, it provides a target for cybercriminals. Previously, people wanting to illicitly gain access to sensitive medical information had to physically enter medical facilities. Now that much of this data is online in some capacity, someone down the street or even halfway around the world may be able to illicitly gain access. We saw this happen more than ever while hospitals were stressed to the max during COVID-19.
Protecting internet-connected medical devices so that patients’ sensitive medical data isn’t exposed and cybercriminals can’t gain access to a device and do harm to a patient, is of critical importance in 2021. Developers are working harder than ever to include the latest security features in their products from the initial coding stages and through the entire development process. Healthcare organizations also have to do their part and train human users on cybersecurity best practices to help avoid catastrophe.
4. 3D Printing
3D printing is a process in which a three-dimensional object is created from a computerized CAD design. In the medical device industry, 3D printing enables medical devices to be produced faster and cheaper without the need for special machinery or tools such as injection molds or specialized cutting tools.
Because 3D printing medical devices is faster and less expensive than traditional production methods, this process offers several benefits for medical professionals. Medical devices can be more easily customized with 3D printing so surgeons can now do things like practice on patient-specific surgical models. New medical devices can also be prototyped, evaluated, and improved faster which speeds up the new product development cycle.
5. Extended Reality (XR)
One more trend in medical devices that is important in 2021 is the use of medical devices that employ XR technology. XR is the catch-all term for virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). As the medical community finds new use after new use for XR technology, its constituent types are being used in more and more medical devices.
For example, VR is currently being used for training surgeons without using cadavers. It is also being implemented in treatments for mental health issues such as depression and PTSD. AR, which mixes the real and virtual worlds, can be used to overlay a patient’s virtual x-ray to make a surgeon more accurate. The medical world is just now scratching the surface of XR medical devices, which will certainly play a huge role in the future.
Medical devices are a growing industry in 2021 and the trends above are a big reason why. These devices are improving the lives of both medical professionals and patients thanks to innovations like SaMD, IoT, Cybersecurity, 3D printing, and XR. These are five of the most important medical device trends right now, but with the speed of innovation in the industry, there will surely be more going forward worth keeping an eye on as well.