No matter how robust a healthcare system is, it can never—much like the human body itself—be impervious to changes wrought by time. Calls for better access, changing patient demands and needs, new technologies, medical advancements, and heightening quality standards are all in motion as part of healthcare system evolution.
In this context, a new breed of innovative company has surfaced: healthtechs. Our innovation experts at KPMG Luxembourg, the Khube, have lent their research skills and helped populate this article with concrete examples—read on for an exploration of how machine learning, 3D-printing, and other technologies are being used to, directly or indirectly, improve the patient experience. Some, as you may guess, use a B2B model, but many focus on directly empowering individuals by providing them with data and communication channels.
Put into practice(s)
Like all huge networks, medical systems rely on data: vast amounts of it must be stored securely, accessed quickly, shared appropriately. Many healthtechs operate in this part of the value chain, with data management services that speed up back-office activities and increase administrative efficiency. Digital labour, for example, doesn't just automate processes but also uses machine learning to improve itself over time as the tool learns the system it's in. Predictive, prescriptive, and descriptive analytics tools can improve decision-making power for both administrators and medical professionals.
Other healthtechs can, for example, 3D-print medical equipment and even bone replacements. Spentys (from Belgium) prints casts used for bone injuries.
Patients benefit from all the improved workings of hospitals and health networks, of course, but also from B2C healthtechs that appeal directly to them.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has brought wearables and other add-ons that collect personal health and lifestyle data. One such wearable is Black Swan (from Luxembourg), a product tailored for the elderly that uses biometric sensors to detect anomalies. The benefits of such gadgetry are obvious: medical experts get more data with which to provide better and more personalised care, and patients stay better informed of their own health and can adapt their habits accordingly, ideally resulting in fewer trips to the doctor.
New communication streams enable patients to voice their opinions on medical institutions, like Meopin (from Luxembourg), often dubbed "the Trip Advisor of healthcare providers." Others, like Doctena (also Luxembourgish), facilitate appointment-scheduling.
The medical classroom
Healthtechs also operate in the education space. Advancements in 3D-printing mean more precise models for students, while other healthtechs use virtual reality to generate human models that allow more realistic interactions and simulations. Robotics is also a growing segment: LuxAI (from Luxembourg) has, for example, created a therapy and educational social hardware robot.
From examination table to kitchen table
Not too long ago, the idea of measuring your cardiac rhythm by placing your finger over your phone's camera would have been fairly preposterous—but this is exactly what Belgian healthtech FibriCheck offers. Some twenty years ago, the internet began revolutionising our relationship with doctors, as it became possible to consult free medical advice online. Now, telemedicine technology is taking it a step further. Taking location out of the equation could help democratise access to care, too.
The future of the field
Cyber threats, the importance of patient data protection, and strict industry requirements all feature on the landscape into which healthtechs have ventured. As the sector matures, creating a safe environment for patients will remain a serious and central priority, and regulations around inventive technology will tighten.
Nevertheless, investment in healthtechs is strong. As has been the case in other sectors, young and inventive companies are testing the definitions of what's possible and challenging industry norms. From securely and digitally storing an x-ray, to 3D-printing a new knee bone for grandma, to connecting you with an otolaryngologist in a country whose language you don't speak—healthtechs are shaping how health systems will mature in the digital age.
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