The year 2020 turned the spotlight on the medical industry and sparked profound changes in healthcare operations; namely, patients and physicians went from in-person visits to telehealth services. At the same time, medical and pharmaceutical innovations were put on hold as industry professionals raced to find a cure for the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, however, experts predict another remarkable revamp, including continued research into the COVID-19 virus, the expansion of new drug and treatment options for various conditions, and an influx in digital health services and medical devices, like artificial intelligence (AI). This all leads to the ultimate goal of finding effective and efficient ways of identifying, diagnosing, and treating chronic illnesses.
Here are the top medical innovations for 2021 and how they will revolutionize the healthcare industry.
1. Fitness Technology
From a simple step counter to watches that offer advanced, detailed health data with accurate readings, wearable fitness technology has evolved and grown into a billion-dollar industry. As the technology grows in availability and accuracy, it will become more beneficial to a range of medical experts. For example, as telehealth visits continue into 2021, doctors can review any collected health data stored in the wearable device, like a patient’s blood pressure and heart rate, and use it to help diagnose and treat.
2. New Migraine Medications
Currently, 12% of the human population struggles with chronic migraines. For years, doctors have treated this condition with multipurpose drugs—like blood pressure medications, anti-seizure drugs, antidepressants, and other pharmaceuticals not explicitly made for treating migraines. This way of managing the problem has proved to be inconsistent and ultimately ineffective. In 2020, however, clinicians began to prescribe a new class of previously introduced drugs that work by blocking a molecule known as calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), significantly reducing the likelihood of a migraine. This prescription will continue to reach sufferers into 2021 and solidify a new channel of migraine treatment.
Another medical advancement has been the implementation of surgical robots. This technological breakthrough was first seen in 2000 with the da Vinci Surgical System, which still performs in operating rooms today. As time progressed, medical robots have greatly improved and are becoming more capable of performing procedures with precision and accuracy. Today, experts are expanding the robots’ level of knowledge and skills needed to perform various tasks and procedures. They are also hoping to expand this technology to more rural areas.
4. Hepatitis C Treatment
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that can cause inflammation, liver cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. Historically, this virus required weekly injections and oral medications that often adversely affected patients with pre-existing conditions and caused severe side effects. Recently, a fixed-dose combination of oral medications has proven to be effective in treating HCV. Its efficacy is up to 90% in genotypes one through six, making it a virtually universal treatment. Hopefully, this new treatment, plus regulated Hepatitis C screenings, will lead to the end of this disease.
5. 3D Printing
3D printing started in 1983 and has continued to expand and evolve. In the late 1990s, it was adopted by the medical industry; since then, 3D printing has been used in remarkable and life-saving ways. Industry professionals, like surgeons, are using this technology to develop customized organs, surgical tools, and internal hardware for patients. Physicians can also use 3D printing to replicate their patients’ organs for research and surgical practice. This futuristic practice is expected to grow and reach other medical industries, such as dentistry, throughout 2021.
6. Smart Pacemakers and Defibrillators
This year, physicians are installing more pacemakers and defibrillators monitored by a smart device via Bluetooth. In the past, these devices were monitored remotely and required bulky bedside consoles that worked by transmitting information to clinicians. These consoles lacked the insight and technology we have today, which led to a lower success rate. Unlike the traditional machines, the new “smart” systems will allow more accurate information to be sent straight to the patient’s preferred smart devices and the primary care physician’s device. A study performed by BlueSync showed the ”smart” devices yielded a 94.6% success rate in delivering information, whereas the traditional systems yielded up to only 3%.
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