Most of us interact with individual physicians within driving range and often by recommendation, based on a list of prerequisites. However, technological innovations can free us from geographic restrictions and episodic visits. Digitalized services in medtech are available on a global network, providing far-reaching benefits. Cloud-based connectivity enables medical experts to interact remotely with any patient anywhere. Digital platforms also support the exchange of data securely while adhering to regulatory compliance. All of these solutions are powered by three key technologies – secure communication, model-based anatomy and additive manufacturing.
Secure cloud platforms provide diagnostic testing and digital data communication for medical scans and lab pathology. Connected care via medtech digital services also affords the patient access to expert consultation that uses biomedical modeling, simulation tools and artificial intelligence analytics of diagnostic data. The result? Personalized health recommendations based on the very best diagnostic capabilities leading to optimal diagnosis and treatment plans, along with individualized precision-medicine providing tailored therapies and procedures.
This has been greatly accelerated over the pandemic through the use of connected care via digital health platforms providing ongoing patient care, even during strict quarantines. The benefits and convenience have quickly become apparent and what would have taken years was realized in just a matter of months.
Model-based medicine and the digital twin
While secure video calls and remote doctor’s visits have been invaluable to the medical profession, this process is still fairly limited in capacity without an extra layer of information – the digital twin. This model-based revolution is driving change in myriad ways by using a digital twin of the patient anatomy, made from medical scans to construct a virtual 3D model. That model can not only inform surgery and treatment planning but can be used to educate patients of procedures and diagnostic results.
Combine this with improved communication and a patient could receive the world’s best care from the comfort of their own town or local hospital. Instead of a patient spending money, time and effort in travelling to a world-class care facility in another part of the world, the digital twin makes the trip via the cloud.
Additive medical manufacturing
The digital twin also feeds the unique capabilities of additive manufacturing (AM) for medical care, with the ability to create organic shapes and methodologies adapted to specific patient needs. For example, when receiving a knee replacement, it’s not just about finding an excellent anatomical fit, but matching the implant to the purpose. Thus, the biomechanics of the anatomy is simulated to validate adequate performance for its intended use. The simulation even provides feedback for modification of implant shape or positioning to achieve the optimal targeted performance of strength, resiliency, weight, etc.
While the long-term opportunity for AM resides in the customizability, its rapid manufacturing capabilities was invaluable to respirator and face shield production at the beginning of the pandemic when supply chains were ramping production.
The future of medicine is flush with innovative technologies, aimed to bring medicine to the masses. The pandemic and a good helping of digitalization has helped many of these medtech companies find the new path for personalized and efficient medicine. And if you don’t believe me, make sure to check out James B. Thompson’s article in Medical Design & Outsourcing on How connectivity and digitalization are changing patient care.
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