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8 Medical Innovations to Watch in 2022

Necessity is the mother of invention, as the old proverb says, and the COVID-19 years have created many opportunities for medical innovations.  

Medical technology in 2022 will continue evolving to enable physicians and other providers to deliver care more efficiently as the healthcare system remains stretched and some clinicians leave direct care for other opportunities.

Watch for these medical technology trends in 2022

1. Telemedicine remains key in healthcare delivery

The COVID-19 pandemic gave telemedicine a boost, but now consumers and physicians have come to embrace it and the efficiency it delivers. 

The recent white paper “Breaking Down Telehealth Barriers,” from Doximity and Fierce Healthcare, reported a 57 percent increase in the number of people who have participated in at least one telehealth visit during the pandemic.

Telemedicine will likely grow to provide more chronic care in the year ahead, according to another Fierce Healthcare article

2. Technology for public health efforts

The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn more attention to public health. Medical technology in 2022 will likely offer more genomic surveillance of viruses. The Rockefeller Foundation’s Pandemic Prevention Institute in New York provided millions of dollars in funding to Helix of San Mateo, California, to expand its viral surveillance through genetic epidemiology nationally to track transmission and emergence patterns of viral variant types.

“Omicron’s rapid spread continues to highlight the need for durable pathogen surveillance capabilities that will allow local communities to prepare for and prevent pandemic outbreaks,” said Rick Bright, senior vice president of pandemic prevention and response at The Rockefeller Foundation and CEO of the Pandemic Prevention Institute, in a statement.

3. Wearables and remote monitoring gain traction

More and more people are wearing devices to track their heart rate and other physiologic data. Physicians are able to monitor patients remotely and can make adjustments to their plan of care to prevent rehospitalizations.

About 320 million consumer health and wellness wearable devices will ship worldwide in 2022 and nearly 440 million in 2024, predicts Deloitte Global. The consulting firm found 39 percent of respondents to its 2021 Connectivity and Mobile Trends survey owns a smartwatch and use the devices to monitor their health. Additionally, many companies are developing new functionalities for wearables.

The publication Insider Intelligence estimates around 30 million people, or 11.2 percent of the U.S. population, will use remote patient monitoring tools by 2024, an increase from 23.4 million patients in 2020.

The American Medical Association released Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) coding for self-measured blood pressure, outside of a physician’s office. And companies, such as Omron, offer remote patient monitoring systems that allow the data to flow to the physician, with abnormal readings sending the clinician an alert.

4. Focus on self-care and worker resiliency

Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York used Apple watches to measure heart rate variability in healthcare workers, as a means of assessing autonomic nervous system function, and an app to collect data about emotional support, resilience, and stress.

“The experience of this pandemic has been especially stressful for healthcare workers, and as a community, we need to be able to support them, especially as the virus persists,” said Zahi Fayad, Ph.D., the study co-lead. “Our study is one of the first to document not only the toll the pandemic has taken on our healthcare workers but also the importance of resilience and social support as specific paths toward efficiently and effectively directing support.”

A national 2021 MedStar Health (Columbia, Maryland) survey found 71 percent of physicians plan to focus on mental health in the new year, and 68 percent want to spend more time with family and friends.

Medical innovations include mental health apps, a growing market, according to Deloitte Global, which predicts $500 million will be spent globally on such apps in 2022. The apps can increase access to behavioral health for those who won’t or cannot seek traditional care and help people manage anxiety or depression on their own. 

5. Artificial intelligence remains strong

More healthcare organizations are investing in artificial intelligence to save money, improve patient outcomes with virtual care, meet equity goals, and ease administrative burdens, including automating administrative workflows, according to the “4th Annual Optum Survey on AI in Health Care.”

6. Big tech moves into the healthcare sector

Technology giants, such as Apple, Google, and Amazon have been entering the healthcare market, offering heart rhythm monitoring on the Apple watch and a Health app; an electronic health records search tool; and virtual care services, respectively. Oracle announced at the end of 2021, it would acquire Cerner, the electronic health records company.

The e-book Tech Giants in Healthcare reported that these and other major tech players will prove crucial in promoting digital health and explained the role digital health technologies played during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

7. Technology in senior living

With America aging and with fewer people available to provide care, technology companies are moving into the senior living space, including ride-sharing, on-demand delivery, and wellness options.

“There are a number of major device manufacturers, B2C consumer electronics providers, and wellness/lifestyle companies that will be targeting more of the older adult space,” said Keith Stewart, chief growth officer of K4Connect, a provider of technology for senior living in Morrisville, North Carolina. “The line is blurring between active adult/55-plus through to earlier levels of care, such as independent living and aging in place. Mainly, this is following the wellness trends led by Apple and Samsung for fitness tracking, but broadly the health tech category maturation.”

8. Virtual reality drives real progress

Digital therapeutics, especially the virtual reality subset, is expected to grow in 2022. Virtual reality can be used for training, planning surgeries, and treating developmental disorders, according to SEC Life Sciences.

Other uses include virtual reality for treating lazy eyes and using this medical technology to treat back pain.

A research report from Facts and Factors predicts the virtual reality in the healthcare market to reach $40.98 billion by 2026, a nearly 35 percent compound annual growth rate from 2021 to 2026.

Physicians and advanced practitioners will likely see these medical technologies in 2022, and possibly some medical innovations still in development, take center stage.

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