The top MedTech innovations of 2021

TBTech looks at some of the top MedTechs that thrived during 2021
TBTech looks at some of the top MedTechs that thrived during 2021

Throughout 2020 and 2021, the medical industry has hurtled into the future and, with that, seen the drastic acceleration in the adoption of technology for healthcare. As a result, various new and exciting medical technologies have been tested on a huge scale in a short timeframe. However, it became evident that there would need to be some reskilling of healthcare workers throughout this time, as new technologies may need to be used together and integrated into various departments. 

The 15th annual EY Pulse of the Industry report found the MedTech industry to be in a position of strength. Just over 20 months after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, the data shows that the MedTech industry has weathered the crisis and entered a period of recovery and renewal, as evidenced by the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity, improved revenues, strong and confident investor sentiment, and VC and IPO funding.

Within the report, EY identifies five key areas where MedTechs should consider on rethinking their business models to deliver care better in the future: 

  • Putting “the human at the center” makes care more accessible, convenient and customer-centered.
  • Leveraging data and digital technologies to make products smarter and better connected
  • Pushing for regulatory reform to support the industry’s ongoing evolution
  • Validating the resilience and agility of supply chains for the future
  • Improving environmental, social and governance (ESG) measures

With this in mind, here are the top areas where MedTech has advanced in the last year.

Advanced telemedicine 

Before the pandemic, Forrester, an analytics firm, found that in January 2020, approximately 24% of US healthcare organizations had an existing telemedicine program. However, from March 2020 the US was set to complete over a billion virtual consultations by the end of the year. Due to the eased telemedicine regulatory barriers, healthcare workers have provided telemedicine services throughout 2020 and 2021. 

In 2021, we have seen telemedicine become more normal, especially within the UK, where patients can use the NHS app for online information while making virtual consultations with their local GP’s. Virtual appointments will continue to be used to increase access to essential care and critical care and enhance cooperation with clinics, long-term care facilities, dialysis centers, and mental health services.

An example of this technology includes Mend, a full-featured telemedicine suite that specifically aims to increase efficiency and profitability by reducing the volume of missed appointments. It does this by adding SMS appointment reminders, online forms, and patient self-scheduling, which combined reduce no-shows to single percentiles.

Mend believes that telemedicine benefits an organization because it allows them to connect with patients virtually anywhere. Virtual visits are faster, cost less to conduct, and expand an organization’s geography, enabling them to help more people.

New methods of drug development

2021 started with the US, UK, and Europe rolling out their vaccination programs resulting from one of the greatest scientific accomplishments in human history. Various safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines were developed through new and innovative ways of conducting medical trials. For example, conducting virtual clinical trials eased the burden of participation. 

The pandemic has touched nearly all aspects of the industry, says Kenneth Kaitin, Director of the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development in Boston, Massachusetts. “This has really turned upside down the whole drug-development process,” he says. “The entire investigative world is focused just on developing treatments for Covid-19.”

Some of the relaxed regulatory practices around drug development will disappear with the Covid-19 pandemic, but innovative methods to testing and collaboration could continue. “The flexibilities that are being granted for clinical-trial development are being granted under the auspices of a public-health declaration,” says Esther Krofah, executive director of FasterCures, a Washington DC think tank. One main thing that will continue, Krofah says, is the culture of collaboration across government, industry and academia that has emerged during the outbreak. “We have traditional competitors working together in new ways,” she says.

Nanomedicine

Nanomedicine is a branch of medicine that applies the knowledge and tools of nanotechnology to the prevention and treatment of disease. Nanomedicine involves using nanoscale materials, such as biocompatible nanoparticles and nanorobots, for diagnosis, delivery, sensing or actuation purposes in a living organism.

Over the years, numerous researchers have come up with new ways to use nanomedicine to target individual cells. 2021 has been the year for all of this research to be implemented. 

An example of this research is in the Covid-19 vaccines and many other antivirals, which rely on antibodies. The NanoViricides platform uses a virus’s binding site to attack. Once the drug attaches to that binding site, it engulfs the virus particle so that the virus cannot infect a new cell at all, thus slowing down the rate at which the virus reproduces and spreads. Now trapped and prevented from infecting and therefore rapidly reproducing, the platform essentially blocks the virus in its tracks. According to the company, that mechanism of attaching to the virus could make this technology a breakthrough weapon in the fight against Covid-19.

Smarter pacemakers

The evolution of the artificial pacemaker has taken over 100 years and has remained a critical piece of medical technology. These devices are usually remotely monitored to ensure the devices are working and functional. Unfortunately, these monitoring processes are far from optimal, relying heavily on complicated interfaces that’s patients may not understand easily. 

By implementing Bluetooth into pacemakers, the devices will be linked to the patient’s smartphone and connected to a mobile app that is easier to understand and use. One example of this technology is from Medtronic who has rolled out its next-gen patient monitoring system for pacemakers. 

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Another example of a smart pacemaker is from CResPace, an H2020 project funded by the European Union. They have developed a technology that re-synchronizes the heart by implementing a smart pacemaker supported by artificial nerve cells – a.k.a – tiny “brain chips”. These bionic neurons enable the pacemaker to adapt more naturally to the demands of the body (running, walking, sitting etc.) by receiving and transmitting physiological electrical signals related to blood pressure and oxygen levels in the blood.

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Luke Conrad

Technology & Marketing Enthusiast

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