There's arguably no industry that develops and evolves more rapidly than healthcare. From advancements in operating room procedures to the way in which health records are transmitted and stored, almost every aspect of healthcare is constantly improving for the better. From a business perspective, understanding these developments can prove helpful in charting the direction of the industry moving forward.
Where We Stand Today
Rewind the clock by a decade, and you'll see an industry that was hurting for innovation and progression. Drowning in bureaucratic regulations and developmental stalemates, the industry was barely a fragment of what it is today.
"Health care - in the United States, certainly, but also in most other developed countries--is ailing and in need of help," wrote Regina E. Herzlinger in a 2006 article for the Harvard Business Review. "Yes, medical treatment has made astonishing advances over the years. But the packaging and delivery of that treatment are often inefficient, ineffective, and consumer unfriendly."
Herzlinger noted that medical errors were the eighth leading cause of death in the United States, healthcare costs were soaring, and a great deal of money was being spent on failed innovations. These failed innovations involved biotechnology, medical devices, and health services.
She also pointed out that, more often than not, the obstacles to innovation in the healthcare industry could be overcome by managing these six forces: industry players, public policy, funding, technology, accountability, and customers.
Well, over the past ten years, the industry has confronted these forces and infused necessary innovation and technological advancements into healthcare. Let's take a look at some of the incredible new advances that we're currently experiencing and anticipating in health technology:
One of the biggest industry developments currently underway is telemedicine. Virtually non-existent 10 years ago, telemedicine is now a rapidly evolving sector of this dynamic industry. Globally, it's expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 14.3 percent through 2020 - eventually reaching $36.2 billion.
Here are some of the hottest trends and developments right now:
- Rise of cloud software platforms. As healthcare facilities become accustomed to the benefits of telemedicine, look for more and more cloud software platforms to hit the market. This increased competition will ultimately lead to better features and functionality.
As you can see, telemedicine isn't some obscure niche. It has unlimited growth potential and will play a major role in the industry moving forward.
2. Oxygen Therapy
Moving into more health-specific developments, it's worth mentioning the rise of oxygen therapy as a solution for healing - especially when it comes to brain damage from strokes.
"Oxygen is the primary substance your brain is deprived of when you have a stroke. And most doctors will tell you that if you've had a stroke, that area of the brain is dead and that's the end of it," says Al Sears, MD, a leader in the advancement of oxygen therapy. "But neurologists now also accept there's a much larger area known as the ischemic (blood-starved) penumbra that isn't dead, but is physiologically traumatized - and because so few doctors know how to treat this condition, eventually it does die."
This is where oxygen therapy enters the picture. When pressurized oxygen is delivered via this technology, it's absorbed into the bloodstream in much greater quantities. This triggers the body's natural healing process by turning on DNA and genes associated with growth, while also turning off inflammation and premature cell death.
Many hospitals and surgical centers use oxygen therapy as a standard part of the post-surgical wound healing process, since the effects are felt throughout the entire body. Look for oxygen therapy to become widely adopted in the coming months.
3. Monitoring Sensors
As sensor technology has developed over the past few years, the medical community has been watching closely. There are now hundreds of different uses for sensors in healthcare.
Some of the most common applications include monitoring body temperature, tracking motion, analyzing pressure, conducting diagnostics, analyzing internal developments, and tracking wellness and fitness progress. But the best is yet to come.
"Eventually the global system of medical IoT devices will comprise billions of devices and applications using sensors, actuators, microcontrollers, mobile-communication devices, and more," says expert Carolyn Mathas. "Consequently, healthcare based on an individual's needs will not only be delivered more effectively but also, because of economies of scale, promises to be lower in cost."
It's hard to turn on the radio these days or to visit a health and beauty website without hearing something about CoolSculpting. In case you're unfamiliar with the technology, CoolSculpting is essentially a fat-freezing procedure that's designed to eliminate stubborn fat that resists diet and exercise. It's currently the only FDA-cleared, non-surgical fat-reduction treatment on the market.
And, while it was once easy to write CoolSculpting off as just another weight loss fad, the numbers show that people truly believe in the process. For the first three months of this calendar year, Zeltiq Aesthetics, the company behind the CoolScupting name, reported revenues of $64.5 million. That's a 25 percent increase from the first quarter of 2015.
While it'll be interesting to watch the development of the CoolSculpting brand, this just goes to prove a larger point about the healthcare industry: Consumers will pay anything for a safe technology that makes them look and feel better.
Health Technology: Redefining a Once Stagnant Industry
When you compare the current state of the healthcare industry to what it was like in 2006 and earlier, it's clear that technology has fundamentally transformed this once stagnant industry. No longer do people look at the industry and wonder if there's any way to move forward. Instead, doctors, patients, entrepreneurs, and lawmakers are able confidently to analyze this all-important sector of the economy and to see the way clearly.
From a business perspective, there's never been a better time to be involved in health technology. The infrastructure established allows for mass adoption of just about any tool or solution that could possibly improve health outcomes, reduce costs, or otherwise streamline mundane processes.
Are you ready to jump in?