Major Tech Trends Impacting Healthcare Heading into 2020

Technology has integrated itself so aggressively and seamlessly into every aspect of modern life that it can be difficult to grasp just how disruptive, transformative, and permanent its effects have been. The line between present and future seems to be blurred or, at times, erased entirely. 

We hardly flinch when we hear there’s a gene-editing tool out there that will probably eradicate hereditary deafness

We don’t blink anymore when we hear that a paralyzed man moved all four of his limbs using a mind-controlled robotic suit. 

Instead, these headlines seem to register now with the same amount of awe as a weather forecast—we expect them as a normal product of daily life. 

Nearly every industry has seen its processes and services radically altered by technology at some level, and healthcare is far from an exception. Consider this: The healthcare IT market alone, for example, is expected to swell to $390.7 billion by 2024, and is growing at a rate faster than the GDP of most countries. 

Below, we’ll take a look at a few of the major tech trends in healthcare heading into 2020.

Wearable Devices 

It’s highly unlikely that the strap you see around someone’s wrist is just tracking time. Smartwatches and gadgets like Fitbits and Apple Watches have already become commonplace, but their use and sophistication are only expected to increase. 

With more than 80% of consumers willing to wear some sort of fitness technology, the door is wide-open for continued development and application of healthcare functionality

These wearable medical devices already perform an impressive variety of health tracking functions like heart rate monitoring, exercise tracking, sleep monitoring, and sweat metering. This rapid acceleration of functionality and ease of accessibility contributed to the sharp rise of US consumer use from 9% in 2014 to 33% in 2018.

As healthcare continues its shift towards consumerism and the population continues to become more proactive participants, these figures are expected to keep rising. 

AI and Machine Learning

Like the data provided by wearable devices, the steady increase of technological applications in healthcare has lead to a stunning amount of available data that’s difficult to properly contextualize. Simply put, the amount of data in healthcare is expected to double every 73 days by 2020

To sift through and analyze this impossible amount of information, the medical community has continued to develop and rely upon the many functionalities and vast potential of AI and machine learning. 

Effectively leveraging these technologies is predicted to save the US healthcare system $100 billion annually by optimizing innovation, improving the efficiency of research and clinical trials, creating new tools for physicians, consumers, and insurers, and drastically improving patient outcomes. 

3D Printing

A little piece of all of our inner child stirs when we hear about the latest developments in 3D printing technology. Firmly establishing a home in the healthcare industry, 3D printers are responsible for over 100 devices currently on the market, and that number is projected to increase as the technology continues to advance. 

Valued at $973 million in 2018, the size of the healthcare market for 3D printing is expected to jump to $3.69 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 18.2% from 2019 to 2026.  

Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing utilizes a layer-by-layer addition technique to produce physical objects from digital files. A few of the groundbreaking applications in healthcare include:

  • Improved Prosthetics: Traditionally expensive and uncomfortable for patients, 3D-printed prosthetics are able to be far more personalized and affordable to the specific individual.
  • Surgical Tools: similar to prosthetics, 3D allows for much more customization and accuracy in producing a variety of surgical tools for incisions and other functions
  • 3D printed Tissues, Implants, and Organs: With more than 113,000 people waiting on the U.S. transplant list, the development of 3D “bioprinted” living tissue, blood vessels, organs, and even bone is perhaps one of the most significant potential breakthroughs of the technology. 

Technological advances like these present considerable opportunities for the healthcare industry to provide a much higher tier of patient outcomes as systems across the world struggle to keep with steadily increasing demand. 

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