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/ 22/2/2018 Healthcare Innovation: Products & Trends for 2018

Healthcare Product Innovation

The next big thing in medicine may be not be medicine at all. The acceleration of technology, particularly mobile, has disrupted the medical device industry. Here are a few products and trends that are shaping the future of healthcare.

Rise of the Robots

Technology is everywhere we turn, and its ubiquity weighs heavily on how product design evolves. A key change for designers of digital-physical products is the changing relationship between humans and machines.

Technology now enables machines to learn about people, rather than the other way around. We’re at a point where our machines are making decisions for us. And as these technologies become more complex, with our own limitations remain somewhat static, the design challenges shift.

Designers of medical products need to be aware of our human tendency to over-rely on technology, ensuring they’re not too quick to assume that machines are fool proof. They must address all assumptions early and decide who is in control — man or machine


Digital Therapeutics (Dtx)

Many entrepreneurs are betting on apps to improve, or simply replace, prescription medication. The reSET app from Pear Therapeutics is already paving the way for future addiction treatment. The app, which is intended for use with outpatient therapy to treat alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, and stimulant SUDs, has proven to be a huge success in initial trials of patients with diagnosed SUD.

Click Therapeutics develops and commercialises software as prescription medical treatments. The company, which coined the term ‘digital therapeutics’ back in 2012, provides a range of mobile software to support the treatment of smoking cessation, chronic pain, insomnia and depression.

Sleepio is a digital therapy claiming that their service makes sleeping pills unnecessary. As their CEO, Peter Hames, explains: “We’ve been able to show through multiple peer-reviewed studies that the outcomes are better than drugs.”

Tech start-up Neurotrack Technologies state that “preventing memory loss is possible.” Their digital products use clinically proven science to help patients assess and improve memory over time.


Virtual Reality (VR)

VR is increasingly being used in a wide range of medical applications, from treatments to training. There is strong scientific evidence to support the fact that VR can relieve pain. Parts of the brain that are linked to pain (somatosensory cortex and the insula) are less active when a patient is immersed in VR.

This may offer an important benefit to children with serious chronic conditions that require frequent procedures, such as infusion therapy.

Applied VR is leading the way with the use of technology to distract, even alleviate, patients from their pain.

VR systems are helping professionals to design better rehabilitation applications, enabling patients to use their therapy exercises as interactions in a VR game. For example, lifting an arm to catch a virtual ball.

Recreating everyday tasks within virtual environments and allowing patients to practise them can help them regain a higher level of cognitive function. This is key for patients with brain injury from trauma or illness.

Of course, VR isn’t just for patients. It is increasingly being used to help professionals learn anatomy, practice operations and teach infection control. With low-cost equipment, controllable scenarios and instant feedback, VR is becoming powerful new tool.


Skincare 2.0

L'Oreal has developed a new wearable UV sensor that can be stuck onto the user’s fingernail. The sensor doesn't pair over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Instead, it's NFC-enabled and can be scanned with a phone to retrieve the UV data collected. The UV Sense, as it’s known, is designed to help people track how much time they spend in the sun without being overbearing.

The UV Sense will determine long a person has been outside, and once synced with their app, provides a score that says whether they’re spending too much time in the sun. The app asks a range of initial questions to establish a baseline for skin tone.

Available in the UK later this year, UV Sense will come with replaceable adhesives for re-use.


Consumer Design’s Influence

Technology adoption in every aspect of life has raised expectations among both practitioners and patients. People want more, whether it be in interaction patterns, navigation models, responsiveness, connectivity, even the way we power our devices.

The growth of wearables within the consumer market will be mirrored in healthcare. And as technology advances, wearables will need to deliver more than just data. People want insights they can act on, which lead to behavioural change.

A great example of this next generation of wearables in action is Siren – smart diabetic socks that monitor foot temperature and proactively help with potential diabetic foot ulcers.

In order to relieve the strain on hospitals and doctors’' surgeries, patients will be increasingly relied on to use remote diagnostic and monitoring devices. This raises some big issues for the designers of medical devices.

The increased reliance on patients to use equipment means that products will need to have an intuitive design that is easy to use. Devices will also need to deliver quick results that are easy to interpret.

As the medical space becomes more crowded, hardware and user interface design will become key differentiators, with buyers more likely to factor user experience into their purchasing decisions.


Voice Technology

As voice technology grows more sophisticated, patients can engage with their health at home through voice assisted internet of things (IoT).

More patients are purchasing voice-assisted devices, like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, opening a realm of new possibilities for medical organisations.

Voice assistants could be used for ride-sharing services to help patients book rides to and from a hospital, plus they’ll bridge a particularly important gap for the elderly, who can feel uncomfortable searching for medical information on computers, tablets or smart phones.

Voice technology will also improve things for clinicians. Patients will be able to get answers to common medical questions whilst doctors collect data remotely, eliminating unnecessary follow-up visits.


There’s great opportunity for design to bridge the gap between technology and humans with simple, intuitive user experience. The real challenge will be meeting stringent regulations and ensuring that patient safety isn’t at all compromised.