MedTech: The evolution of Technology in the Medical Field

August 23, 2022


Digital isn’t new to the pharmaceutical industry. Digital innovations are driving optimization across the value chain. Machine learning is being applied in R&D and the Internet of Things (IoT) is changing manufacturing. Cloud solutions are being leveraged along the value chain. And omnichannel platforms are being used to support healthcare provider (HCP) engagements.

Payers, providers and patients are increasingly turning to digital solutions and remote channels—a trend that’s been hastened by the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re embracing telemedicine and electronic health records. Also, some countries are taking advantage of digital prescriptions.

Patients are also wanting to be more self-empowered, guiding the management of their own therapy and health. A survey found that 60% of patients are willing to use technology more often for communication and disease management. In support of these changing expectations, popular consumer wearables like the Apple Watch and lifestyle apps are offering people the personalized support they want to meet their health and wellness goals.

These changes have sparked an entirely new set of health offerings—digital therapeutics.

What are digital therapeutics?

Software as a medical device (SaMDs) offer patients more than just the ability to track habits or seek medical expertise. As the software fulfills a diagnostic or therapeutic purpose, or has any type of interference with patient data or information, it is subject to different EU and US regulations for development, manufacturing, marketing and product monitoring.

Digital Therapeutics (DTx), a subset of SaMDs, are helping with the treatment, management and prevention of medical conditions based on clinical evidence. These high-quality software programs seek market authorization in many countries to become part of the standard of care programs, enabling them to address many challenges of healthcare systems.

For pharma companies, digital therapeutics provide an opportunity to create additional value—alongside their traditional pharmaceuticals—and to optimize the patient journey.

More than 90,000 new digital health applications (apps) were added to app stores in 2020—that’s an average of more than 250 new apps every day. Digital health apps range from providing a platform for services such as virtual doctor appointments and chronic-disease management to consumer health apps that help people manage their own health through tracking daily steps and accessing exercise and nutrition programs. The COVID-19 pandemic helped to accelerate the adoption of digital health apps, which could help drive a preventative, digital-first Future of Health. However, there are ethical and regulatory issues that should be considered.

Globally, more than 350,000 health apps are available from the various app stores. However, downloads and the corresponding use of apps are heavily skewed, with just 110 health-related apps downloaded more than 10 million times, accounting for almost half of all downloads. Apps that fail to follow guidelines, don’t function as intended, are out-of-date, or economically unviable due to the ongoing costs of continually updating to new operating systems, are typically removed from the app stores.

How did COVID-19 impact adoption?

The pandemic help to spur a proliferation of symptom-checker apps, apps to manage lateral-flow-test results and apps that act as vaccine passports. Many new and existing digital health tools have also helped citizens mitigate some of the health impacts of COVID-19. These apps have enabled citizens to engage with clinicians through virtual visits, track their general health metrics and monitor and manage their health condition or symptoms remotely. Virtual consultation (telehealth) technologies have been scaled dramatically to help clinicians diagnose, monitor and care for patients remotely, contributing to a digital-first health care system.

This increase in use mirrors trends seen in health and fitness apps. In 2020, app downloads grew by 30% and time spent on apps increased by 25%, compared to 2019. This significant uptake is expected to continue post-pandemic as demonstrated by the increase in investment funding—with a record $24 billion of investments in digital health in 2020, globally, and average deal sizes increasing significantly to $45.9 million.

Health apps are increasingly focused on health-condition management rather than wellness management (the proportion of such apps grew from 28% in 2015 to 47% in 2020). Mental health, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease-related apps account for almost half of disease-specific apps. Regulated, evidence-based, mental-health apps not only can help improve access to advice and support, they can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. While these apps can be used in conjunction with traditional, face-to-face therapy, they also can be used as the platform to provide synchronous or a-synchronous support from a mental health therapist. A growing body of evidence shows that these types of platforms have increased accessibility by removing social stigma and the challenge of traveling to an in-person appointment. They are also facilitating access for those who have previously shied away from face-to-face therapy.

Digital health apps are helping clinicians to work smarter. They are also empowering patients with easier access to advice and support while improving their understanding and management of their condition. In the future, clinicians and patients will likely be empowered by digital diagnostic and treatment paradigms. It is predict Medtech and related health applications will be crucial drivers of value-based care. Together these developments can contribute to the delivery of 4P medicine (medicine that is predictive, preventative, personalized and participatory).

We expect health apps will play an important role in empowering patients to manage their health through digitally-enabled care pathways, broaden access to health care services, and increase participation and awareness of the wider populations’ health and wellbeing. Evidence-based health apps will likely be integrated into established clinical treatment pathways, with the aim of both improving outcomes of current treatments and increasing access to specialized, and, where relevant, personalized, therapies.

Health apps also have the potential to improve sustainability of health care. They can help reduce patient and clinician travel, allow for remote monitoring, treatment, and surgery, and remote medication management. However, to achieve this ambition, citizens need to trust that the health apps are collecting and analysing data safely and effectively and in accordance with robust data standards and regulatory scrutiny; and, importantly, that clinicians are acting on the results.

Our team can ideate, design, and develop digital solutions aimed at medical facilities, Telemedicine, Health insurance, and medical aid. Best of all, we will continue to support and improve your product even after the release.

For example, we developed Siza — a telehealth app that connects doctors with patients instantly, or through scheduled bookings with virtual vital tests. We also ensured that the platform stores patient information according to South African and European regulations.

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