Ally Winning, European Editor, PSD
As I mentioned in my Viewpoint column, medical electronics is one of the most exciting areas for the industry at the moment. From my point of view, what is amazing about the analysts’ predictions mentioned in that column is that medical IoT is set to take up to 40% of all medical electronics spending in just five years. Medical IoT was almost unheard of a decade ago.
The reason for this rapid adoption is that the medical and healthcare industries are being put under more and more pressure as the proportion of the population in the developed world above retirement age grows each year. Fewer taxpayers are having to pay for the rising healthcare costs of the aged population and our doctors and medical facilities are being overwhelmed by the need to care for the elderly. Medical IoT and telemedicine devices have the ability to take some of that pressure off medical staff by reducing the number of appointments required to take simple tests and for general appointments. Of course, there is also a further benefit of fewer people being exposed to germs from sick patients in the doctor’s waiting room.
In the near future, people will be able to take their own readings which will be automatically communicated to the patient’s healthcare centre without the involvement of the doctor. Not too much further in the future, the doctor may be cut out the process entirely as AI improves and more diagnostic checks can be made in the Cloud. If doctors are not cut out, then their involvement may be reduced to giving a second opinion if required, or actually calling the patient to tell them they are sick and to report to the facility for treatment. It may sound far fetched, but there has been some cases when AI is already proving more accurate than trained dermatologists at correctly identifying skin cancer and it has been found to be effective at finding Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease before overt symptoms can be found. And of course, earlier diagnosis and treatment means a better overall outcome in the majority of cases.
It is the electronics industry that is driving this process forward at an extremely fast tempo. It seems that almost every day news of a new innovation lands on my desk which has the potential to push things a little further forward. For example, Maxim has recently combined the company’s latest sensors into a wrist-worn dev kit that provides the platform for developers to add their own software and algorithms. The dev kit is worth mentioning not just because it is in a quirky format, but because the company claims a couple of noteworthy innovations in measurement. It claims the integrated sensor that measures ECG is the first that is accurate enough to be useful medically - until now ECG measurements have been taken using a chest strap. The company also claims the Health Sensor Platform 2.0 is the first to take an accurate body temperature using a reading from a single location. In a matter of years we may see products like these prescribed to patients for constant monitoring of their conditions.
It is with this innovations like these the electronics manufacturers are driving the medical industry forward and achieving new ways of working that were just not thought possible, even a few years ago.