Medical Innovations and Technologies in 2023
The science of medicine rapidly evolves and 2023 will likely bring more changes in medical technology to better serve patients. Here’s a look at some of the healthcare technology trends expected to make the biggest impact in 2023.
1. Advancing mRNA technology
Few people had heard about the synthetic messenger RNA genetic technology prior to the COVID-19 pandemic when this medical technology was used to create mRNA vaccines, which have been highly effective at reducing hospitalizations and deaths from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The companies that produced the COVID vaccines are now working on using the mRNA technology to create other vaccines and therapeutics. Pfizer has announced clinical trials for an mRNA-based influenza vaccine and, with its COVID-vaccine partner BioNTech, is working on developing an mRNA-based vaccine to prevent shingles.
Moderna has 35 development candidates in clinical trials with more to come, said Stéphane Bancel, CEO, in a shareholder letter. These new candidates include respiratory vaccines, such as for influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, and latent vaccines. Moderna also is working on cancer vaccines and treatments for rare diseases.
2. Patients embracing telehealth
Telehealth and virtual visits have become and will continue to be much more common in 2023, as patients like the convenience.
A study released by Elevance Health last fall reported 94 percent of patients were satisfied with their use of virtual primary care, and 79 percent indicated it helped them take charge of their health.
“In 2019, there were approximately 900,000 telehealth matters billed in the Medicare-Medicaid database,” reported Peter Kolbert, JD, senior vice president of claim and litigation services at Healthcare Risk Advisors, part of TDC Group in California. “In 2020, that jumped significantly to around 60 million…predominantly driven by COVID-19 and the inability of people to travel and the quick development and dissemination of telehealth platforms across the country, which enabled patients to check in with their physicians remotely.”
David L. Feldman, MD, MBA, CPE, FAAPL, FACS, chief medical officer for The Doctors Company and TDC Group, added that “telehealth is here to stay” and will be a “fixture of the way care is delivered.” However, he expects telehealth usage will decrease in the coming year as patients seek in-person care.
The accounting and consulting firm Deloitte predicts “organizations will need to position virtual health as an integral channel for managing care.”
Kolbert added, “As of yet, we have not witnessed an increase in the number of claims for telehealth; however, we can certainly anticipate more telehealth claims in the coming year.”
When providing telehealth, Feldman cautioned physicians to “remain vigilant, check their licenses, and understand the care they can provide to patients remotely and when to refer to a local provider.” In addition, physicians should remain aware that the patient may be recording the televisits.
3. Adapting to data integration and AI
Feldman expects “critical progress in data integration will bring about major improvements in healthcare,” including enabling patients “access to their complete longitudinal health records on their phones.”
While artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can help create accurate summaries, it will depend on improvements in data management and integration, Feldman added.
AI holds the potential to assist with rapid diagnoses of breast cancers and heart disease, to assess surgical wounds and to help with drug discoveries. Cleveland Clinic in Ohio reports using AI to detect risk factors for sepsis.
“Most sophisticated medical AI applications rely on machine learning that uses historical patient data to recognize patterns,” Feldman said. “AI is only as good as its input data, and for many experts, concerning unknowns remain—including the potential for worsening risks to patients from pre-existing bias, plus liability risks for providers.”
Richard E. Anderson, MD, FACP, chairman and CEO of The Doctors Company and TDC Group recommended physicians ask about AI’s data set and what has been collected and from where.
“If AI suggests a path that's different than the standard of care, and it turns out to be right, that's great for the patient, and there's no liability,” Anderson said. “But if it turns out to be wrong: Who's liable for that? Is it the algorithm? The developer of the algorithm? The doctor who deviated from the recognized standard of care in order to follow the black box? And how do you sue a black box? All of these things remain to be to be worked out.”
4. Securing healthcare data
The collection of all of that data, as the industry has almost completely transitioned to electronic medical records, has created concerns about data security associated with medical innovations in 2023.
Hannah T. Neprash, PhD, at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and colleagues reported in JAMA Health Forum a growth in ransomware attacks from 2016 to 2021, exposing personal health information.
The Department of Health and Human Services issued a warning to healthcare providers in January 2023 about a new ransomware threat.
Anita Gupta, DO, PharmD, MPP, an adjunct assistant professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine and pain medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, wrote in Forbes that she expects security of digital data to become increasingly important to organizations. That includes encrypting the information. She added that AI can assist in defending against cyberthreats.
5. Creating new pharmaceutical products
The pharmaceutical industry will continue to make medical innovations in 2023.
The Cleveland Clinic has called attention to several new drug treatments, including inclisiran for lowering low-density lipoproteins, mavacamten for treating obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and NK3R antagonists for menopausal hot flashes
6. Capitalizing on augmented and virtual reality
Healthcare technology trends include greater use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) for physician training and education purposes. AR and VR also can be used to visualize veins, assist in surgeries and reduce patients’ pain.
The Irish research firm Research and Markets predicts the global AR and VR healthcare market will grow 22.5 percent to achieve a value of $9.79 billion dollars from 2023 to 2027.
7. Implementing 3D printing
Three-dimensional (3D) printing in healthcare will continue being used in 2023 to develop models, medical devices, custom implants or joints, prosthetics, skin cells for burn victims and artificial organs as medical technology evolves.
8. Adjusting to wearables and in-home testing
More and more people are wearing Apple Watches and other wearable devices that can track steps taken, heartbeats, blood oxygen levels and sleep patterns. Physicians and advance practice clinicians will need to incorporate the results from patients using these devices and others to monitor their health.
The National Institutes of Health has launched a pilot COVID-19 “Home Test to Treat Program.”
New in 2023 is the U-Scan from Withings, a sensor placed under the rim of a toilet bowl and assesses biomarkers and metabolites in a person’s urine and delivers the result to an app on the person’s phone. The system still requires U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.
The above list is just the beginning. Going forward into 2023, new technologies and innovations will continue to emerge and offer benefits to healthcare providers and patients alike.
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