Top 9 Medical Technologies

January 11, 2019 by STEP Conference

As global spending on healthcare soars past the seven trillion-dollar mark, new types of medical technologies are required, specifically to increase the overall quality of medical services and to combat rampant medical inflation.

MENA governments are spending billions of dinars, riyals and dirhams on upgrading their traditional healthcare infrastructure. Newspapers are filled with stories on newer, bigger and flashier hospital projects. These cathedrals of care are an important part of the healthcare system, but as the world moves away from antiquated models of care, MENA governments need to also be aware of the latest advancements in medical technologies. Below are nine future technology trends and themes that will be impacting the global healthcare industry as well as a few of the regional disruptors working to transfer these technologies to the MENA region:

1. Artificial Intelligence 

Yes, robots are coming for healthcare. Machine learning and AI will massively influence the way healthcare is delivered in the near future—in diagnostics, medical therapy, and population health management. It’s not just a smart search for medical diseases, the promise of AI in healthcare is that Dr. A.I. will come up with different combinations of treatment plans previously unthought-of by the medical establishment. 

An interesting startup working on developing an AI application for healthcare in the MENA region is Nabta Health (Winner of STEP 2018 Pitch Competition). This dual domiciled company, based in Imperial College and Dubai Science Park, is currently developing, the world’s first AI focused on women.

2. Harnessing the power of Blockchain

Blockchain is an immutable (unchangeable), distributed ledger, which makes it an ideal framework for sharing information in a secure format—such as electronic medical records and creating a new medical funding paradigm (think cryptocurrencies but for preventative healthcare). The latter potential is currently being pioneered in the Middle East by the Saudi Internet Health Application Technology Company or Sihatech, where the Jamalek Medical Financing platform is geared up to fund around 1 million dollars of funding requests per month.

3. Preventative Healthcare

A recent study by University of Queensland School of Public Health that showed a simple 20% tax on only sugary drinks in Australia would raise an estimated $400 million a year and reduce annual health expenditure by up to $29 million, with 800 fewer new Type 2 diabetes cases each year once the tax was introduced resulting in at least 1600 fewer deaths would have occurred over 25 years, due to 4,400 fewer people with heart disease at that time and 1,100 fewer people living with the consequences.

4. Smarter Regulations: Accountable Healthcare

This is perhaps one of the most interesting recent global trends in healthcare, forming the crux of the Affordable Care Act in the United States. The main idea is that healthcare practitioners will no longer profit from the sickness of patients, but instead will be incentivized to keep patients healthy and encourage preventative and evidence-based medicine. This is of course nothing new. In the Fertile Crescent in 17th century BC the Code of Hammurabi called for physicians to be paid only if their patients were healthy.

5. Disrupting the Parental Model of Medicine

Another interesting global trend in healthcare, is consumerism, or a paradigm shift by which patients are taking increasing ownership of their own healthcare needs. Whether it is ‘shopping’ via the phone or online for the best priced health care service, or even as far as self-diagnosing themselves prior to a doctor’s visit by browsing the multitude of online healthcare resources, the traditional paternal model of medicine whereby the physician’s word is the unequivocal law is slowly eroding. Price transparency is an increasingly important global sub-trend since consumers have greater access to information prior to obtaining medical services.

6. Rising Burden of Medical Inflation

Inflation in the healthcare sector has outpaced the inflation in the CPI by almost 700% over the past 40 years according to the USBureau of Labor Statistics. The largest cost bucket is typically the remuneration of healthcare workers. It is costing more and more to staff healthcare facilities and technology has still not been as disruptive in this field as in other industries—only around 50% of doctors in the USA use some form of electronic health record (EHR). Another cost barrier is high administrative costs, estimated to be between 24 to 31% in the US, which many experts agree is the world’s most bloated healthcare system.

7. Personalized and Genomic Medicine

Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) are segments of prokaryotic DNA containing short repetitions of base sequences. Each repetition is followed by short segments of “spacer DNA” from previous exposures to a bacteriophage virus or plasmid. The CRISPR interference technique has many potential applications, including altering the germ line of humans, animals, and food crops. Most recently, the use of CRISPR for genome editing won approval for a revolutionary trial to fight cancer in humans where scientist from the University of Pennsylvania will edit the immune systems of 18 patients to target cancer cells more effectively. The experiment won approval from the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC), a US federal ethics panel set up at the National Institutes of Health to review controversial experiments that change the human genome. A big part of the future of Personalized Medicine is the analysis of big data where tremendous amounts of data are generated and aggregated, which eventually need to be comprehended to access the full predictive power (see chart below).

8. 3D Printing for Organ Transplants

Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) is a photochemical process that makes it possible to produce structures with excellent mechanical properties, resolution, and surface finish. CLIP will soon make it possible to print isotropic organs and body parts with mechanical properties and surface finish like injection-molded plastics. No other additive technology delivers the synthesis of fit, form, and function needed to bridge the gap between prototyping and manufacturing.

9. Robotic Surgery

Robots again—but this time hardware not software. The future of the operating room is to make minimal access surgery universally accessible and affordable by significantly expanding the range of procedures that can be performed robotically. Many robotic surgery firms have successfully completed preliminary cadaveric, animal, and first-in-human trials. Leveraging robotic surgical technologies to dovetail with traditional telemedicine will transform the existing market for surgical robotics and address the immediate needs of performing high risk surgeries in rural and remote area. Global annual revenues for robot-assisted minimal access surgery are presently approximately $4 billion and are anticipated to reach $20 billion by 2025 according to research by Cambridge Medical Robotics.

This is a featured post by Dr. Mussaad M. Al-Razouki, who will be speaking about the future of healthtech on the STEP X stage on February 13th in Dubai internet city. 

About the Author: 

Dr. Mussaad M. Al-Razouki is the current Chief Business Development Officer of Kuwait Life Sciences Company (KLSC) where he is responsible for identifying new business opportunities for all KLSC subsidiary companies as well as sourcing investments opportunities for KLSC.

An Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon by training and a graduate of Columbia Business School, Dr. Razouki is also an author, having contributed to “Digital Health: Scaling Healthcare to the World” and “Digital Health Entrepreneurship”

Meet Dr. Razouki along with other speakers at STEP Conference 2019! Buy your tickets before prices increase, or apply to showcase your startup.