Healthcare Tech Trends for 2018

In this blog we’ve got sci-fi nanobots, smart sensors for human organs, and consumer IoT products. Some of the most mind-blowing innovations are going to take flight in 2018 - the ground-breaking discoveries of scientists and healthcare startups will save lives and ultimately change the way we view our fleshy brain-vehicles.

But before we dive into the inexorable march to healthier human lives, bear in mind one thing.

Last week I had my first ever root canal. The entire experience from initial appointment to diagnosis to treatment to prescription to check-up was done via… telephone and paper.

For all the wonderful technology and innovation we’re creating right now, the ability and the inclination of the human to adopt, operate and benefit from them remains the biggest challenge of all. With that warning, let’s look at what the industry is planning:

In this series we will be looking at the healthcare tech trends and startups for 2018 on:

  • Data collection

  • Data processing

  • Data security

  • Patient experience

Coming up in this blog:

Data Collection

The mega-trend around data collection is IoT, everything from wearables to nanobots. We’re not just talking steps-counters here, we’re talking some sci-fi level stuff.

For example, the startup Proteus was named after a film in which scientists shrank tiny humans to enter brains and clear out blood clots. This start-up does something similar, but with fibre optics. They inject biological “smartprobes” into the alveoli of lungs to find and highlight pathogens, i.e. individual bacteria, so we can zap the little pests. That’s insane!

Proteus is a project shared between three British universities and they’ve proved the tech in what they delicately call “ex vivo lung tissue”, which means the patient was somewhat beyond medical intervention at that point, but now they’re testing on live humans.

Proteus is therefore still at research phase, but we’re also seeing straight-to-consumer products hitting the market, indicating a trend towards greater patient trust in taking a proactive approach to self-care. Perhaps even the staunchest NHS supporter will be splashing out on preventative healthcare technology.

One such example is EarlySense, they put sensors under your mattress which monitor tons of stuff, it can even alert you if your partner leaves your bed and doesn’t return within a certain timeframe. At first, this might sound a creepy way to keep track of one night stands, but this alarm is actually vital for caregivers worried about vulnerable partners falling over in the bathroom, or getting confused and leaving the house all together. EarlySense claims to have saved 550 lives so far, and it’s not hard to see why.

The Purge Is Coming

However, hardware devices all need to hearken to Jawbone’s 2017 demise. Wearables are becoming commodified, hardware device margins remain slim, and consumer desire is still sluggish, albeit moving in the right direction. 2018 will therefore see more wearables deaths as the market consolidates and corporates acquihire.

IoT devices still need that extra dose of magic to deliver real value to consumers. Too many are just scrabbling around for use-cases while never avoiding the “nice-to-have” marginal value trap. If I were to say “here’s an app to help you stop smoking!” you’d yawn faster than Prince Philip at tea-time.

But we’re still seeing startups striving to capitalise on wearables, they’re letting the likes of Apple do the hard bit of selling smartwatches, while they focus on the apps. Cue by Kiwi.ai is a smartwatch-only app to help smokers quit, its magic sauce hopes to be its use of artificial intelligence. It’s able to recognise from movement that you’re smoking, understand when and why you smoke, gamify your usage, and gradually help you quit. If it can crack how software helps humans avoid harmful habits, then it’s on to a money-making winner.

Healthcare Of Things

At Least Christmas Is Sorted

So, there’s an army of devices being developed for you and bits connected to you, your ears (“hearables”), eyes, chest, feet, bed, lounge, bike, and god knows what else, your toilet probably.

Expect to start seeing Christmas stockings and birthday gifts full of Healthcare IoT sensors. Soon there won’t be a granny in the land who’s not forced to wear a tracker when fetching the milk.

I’d also like to think Santa will be using a Smart Harness on Rudolph too, check the lil guy isn’t getting too chilly, perhaps a light-sensitive bridle to warn if his nose is getting dim.

Of course, for both Santa and the citizens south of the Arctic Circle, the success of healthcare IoT will not just rely on the accuracy of the data they collect, but on the value they deliver from processing that data.

This leads us to the next in our series: Data Processing Trends in Healthcare Tech - with edge computing, blockchain and a few other buzzwords. Coming soon.