How Has the Pandemic Accelerated Health Technology?
Technology has been essential over the past few years, facilitating remote working and improving efficiency in manufacturing and industrial settings. As a result, the UK technology sector grew six times faster than the wider national economy in 2019 and has gone from strength to strength ever since — despite the logistical issues presented by supply chain bottlenecks, lockdowns and Brexit red tape.
The pandemic has significantly influenced the medical technology sector, which has evolved in the face of these unprecedented challenges. According to a recent report about the global medical electronics market by Vantage Market Research, this industry is expected to exhibit a 6.8% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2022 and 2028. A combination of factors will contribute to this growth, such as increasing life expectancy, the rising geriatric population and the escalating demand for smart medical devices and wearable, portable electronics.
Unfortunately, however, the NHS has reported severe appointment bottlenecks in the wake of coronavirus and post-pandemic demand for services, with record numbers of people still waiting for treatments. The government has laid out a plan to tackle England’s backlog in care, including the scaled use of digital technologies across the NHS to improve access and flexibility for patients.
So, how can leveraging Industry 4.0 technologies allow the healthcare industry to deal with these disruptions and improve the quality of medical services?
The applications of technology in healthcare
In the modern world, patients come into contact with healthcare technology at almost every stage of the treatment cycle. Medical devices and electronics are used in various healthcare applications, from prevention and diagnostics to treatment and ongoing care. So, there are several different types of medical technology on the market.
Most people will be familiar with imaging equipment such as ultrasound scanners, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines and computed tomography (CT) scanners commonly used in hospitals and medical centres for clinical analysis and medical intervention. Other well-known medical electronics studies such as an electrocardiogram (ECG) or electroencephalogram (EEG) use bio-electrical signals to measure activity signals from the heart, brain and other muscles.
And with the development of the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and other Industry 4.0 technologies comes a new generation of medical devices. The IoT allows more and more everyday objects and products such as thermometers and stethoscopes to take and record accurate data and connect to wireless networks, providing a constant stream of real-time information to better decision making and expedite diagnosis and treatment.
The miniaturisation of sensors and microchips has also paved the way for smaller, more elaborate medical devices. For example, radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology uses wireless communication between microchips in RFID tags and receivers to track and identify people and equipment, improving patient safety and logistical efficiency in hospitals and other medical settings.
Plus, the development of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) that use advanced microsensors has applications for multiple sectors, such as consumer electronics and wearable technology. The global market for wearable technology is expected to register a CAGR of 13.8% between 2021 and 2028 and presents multiple opportunities for medical electronics to help ease the burden on the healthcare industry.
A new era for medical technology
Wearable devices are becoming increasingly impactful in the medical sector. For example, smartwatches can provide walking data to monitor the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, and wearable ECG monitors allow users to track their heart rhythm and rate and measure other vitals, including blood pressure.
The possible applications for this technology are endless, providing us with innovative solutions to everyday problems. As a result, the wearable tech industry is evolving, capitalising on the proliferation of miniaturised electronics components to create portable healthcare devices that allow people to constantly monitor biometrics and regain control over their health, with advantages for both patients and healthcare providers.
Not only is this good news for the overall quality of healthcare provision, but wearable tech is also helping to improve remote communication between doctors and patients. Remote access to healthcare became vital during the pandemic and will now help mitigate the knock-on effects of appointment backlogs. Wearable gadgets can transmit real-time health data to healthcare professionals, allowing doctors to adjust patients’ therapy and treatment more efficiently.
Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are the backbone of wearable devices and other electronic medical equipment, where the tiniest error could be the difference between life or death. So, in an industry such as healthcare, where performance and reliability are critical, medical electronics manufacturing services providers must deliver quality products.