In 2019, healthcare is one of the industries to watch. It is expected to witness some of the biggest leaps in scientific innovation, from state-of-the-art imaging equipment to advanced robotics in the operating theatre. Here are five cutting-edge technologies and products that look set to disrupt the medical sector this year.
1. The advent of artificial intelligence
The current buzzword is undoubtedly artificial intelligence – or ‘AI’. Defined as the intelligence demonstrated by machines or software with the ability to depict or mimic human brain functions, AI is already assisting practitioners in using medical knowledge and improving patient outcomes. Machine learning algorithms, for example, can highlight problem areas on images, aiding the screening process. Additionally, with their ability to reduce clinical variation and duplicative testing, decision support systems can quickly make sense of the mountains of data within a physician’s EMR (electronic medical recording) system. At this year’s Arab Health, Polish firm BrainScan.AI will demonstrate their system, which automatically searches for similar CT or MRI scans in large data sets. Doctors can then more easily find historical cases and examinations that show similar lesions or abnormal changes to those from the examined patient – a gamechanger in the diagnosis process.
2. Patient-specific products achieved through 3D printing
A 3D printer ‘prints’ a specific material one layer at a time until the final product – a kidney, limb, heart valve – is built. Patients using medical devices tailored to their exact specifications have experienced increased comfort and greater bodily acceptance. External prosthetics, cranial/orthopaedic implants, and customised stents for diseases narrowing the airway have made the most progress in this space. British firm 3D LifePrints is a key innovator in this arena. At Arab Health, the company will highlight its most high-tech offerings, notably a cutting-edge range of 3D printed implants and guides for corrective jaw surgery, trauma reconstruction and maxillofacial guides.
3. Virtual reality (VR) for medical education
When virtual reality (VR) first appeared much of the excitement came from the gaming industry. Little did we know that the medical sector would benefit even more from the technology. Today, VR programmes provide simulation training that enhances traditional medical schooling. This immersive learning style is powerful and appeals to all types of learners: audio, visual and kinaesthetic. There is no doubt, healthcare is crossing every kind of boundary – so much so that in 2019 a patient could feasibly undertake VR treatments in his or her own home. ‘Visionary’ in every sense, at this year’s Arab Health, Polish firm RemmedVR will showcase its unique VR therapy for the home treatment of eye issues. Its disruptive solution comprises three elements: certified VR goggles with a pre-installed training app, a tablet for a doctor with access to a control panel and RemmedVR software. It must be seen to be believed.
4. Robotic assistants in the operating room
It might sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but the robots are taking over – in the operating room at least. Surgery today is shorter and less invasive than ever, and this has been brought about in part by the integration of robotics. Medical specialists are increasingly using these carefully designed assistants as fantastic high-tech solutions to help guide them in extreme precision for complicated operations. One pioneering company in this field is French firm Endocontrol, exhibiting at this year’s Arab Health. The company specialises in robotics for laparoscopic surgery and develops ‘cobots’ (collaborative robots) for medical procedures. Although laparoscopic surgery is minimally invasive and associated with less scarring and less pain, it is technically more difficult for surgeons. To assist, Endocontrol developed VIKY EP, a motorised endoscope positioner for laparoscopy, and JAIMY, the first articulated robotised instrument for 5mm incisions, giving a glimpse into the non-human future of the operating room.
5. Bioelectric technology to help control infection
Every year, chronic wounds affect millions of patients globally. More than US$25 billion is spent annually on their treatment, meaning infection control is at the forefront of medical research. Bacteria use electrical interactions to communicate with each other in a process called quorum sensing, signalling them to adhere to a wound, multiply and encase themselves within a protective structural substance known as a biofilm. This barrier impedes the body’s immune defence system and renders the bacteria highly resistant to antibiotics, making biofilm infections extremely difficult to treat. This is where pioneers like Vomaris Innovations – a key exhibitor at Arab Health – are stepping in. Vomaris specialises in bioelectric technology that has the potential to revolutionise regeneration, healing and recovery. Healthcare is ever changing, and innovative approaches are critical as we look to the future of infection prevention.