Medical device design isn’t typically at the forefront of technology, pushing the boundaries of technological advancement. It usually lags behind just a bit until the technology can be perfected. We want the devices that are responsible for tracking and improving our health to be safe, after all.
The industry is catching up in terms of device design. Medical technology is becoming faster, more interconnected, and isn’t too bad on the eyes either. Because a lot of medical devices are being marketed to the average person, they need to have intuitive user interfaces and be attractive.
In 2018, the medical device industry is going to continue building on some trends, like wearables and IoT devices, while figuring out how to integrate new technologies into the mix. Below you’ll find a few medical device design trends to keep an eye out for.
A lot of the apps and devices we carry around with us collect a lot of data, including what we eat, our workout habits, and our daily steps. But what happens to all that data?
The term big data refers to large amounts of information that can be analyzed using computers to reveal patterns, trends, and draw conclusions based on them. Having a lot of separate data points doesn’t reveal much on its own—the real value is in how you utilize your data. And unfortunately, a lot of companies aren’t sure how to best do that.
This year, with the help of intelligent computers and systems, big data will be put to work. Using advanced technologies and computers, big data can be scrutinized to predict things like how long it takes for a particular medication to kick in, how long patients spend in waiting rooms, and even to draw correlations between seemingly unrelated stats like blood type and cancer.
Big data will make way for more specific treatments catered to the individual, emphasizing prevention and early treatment while eradicating the one-size-fits-all model of medicine. Coupled with IoT devices and wearables, big data is the healthcare of the future.
The IoT (Internet of Things) has been adopted by almost every other industry out there, and medical device design companies are finally catching up. It’s shaping the future of healthcare one device at a time and is only going to speed up from here on out.
IoT devices include apps that track health statistics; fitness bands that measure, record, and analyze things like body weight and heart rate; and services that connect you to a live person, whether that be a doctor or emergency services. These devices all collect information and transfer them to other devices and individuals.
Large companies like Phillips are leading the way in IoT-based medical devices, and adoption rates are increasing. This is no surprise considering that the elderly population is growing rapidly. By 2060, it is estimated that one in four Americans will be over the age of 65.
There is a huge marketplace for these devices, and medical product companies are smart to invest in it. Even insurance companies are getting in on the action, as these devices are proving cost-efficient and will help combat the influx of elderly.
While not a new and exciting trend, wearable technology is set to stay strong in 2018 and will incorporate AI. According to Moore’s law, the number of transistors that can fit into a circuit are doubled at least every two years. What this means is that manufacturers will be able to make wearables more powerful, incorporating new functions every year. Long gone are the days of just tracking your steps or heart rate—medical device manufacturers are developing sensors that can monitor your blood pressure, blood sugar level, and your sleep.
These devices are often designed with aesthetics in mind. As marketers begin targeting younger demographics, they are sure to become even better looking, offer more options for customization, and be lightweight. But what’s truly great is how wearables can use the IoT to monitor information and send it straight to your physician, cutting out costly and time-consuming doctor’s visits.
As younger demographics are being targeted, medical devices are becoming more and more aesthetically pleasing. Products like the iPhone can track all sorts of health information, and to compete, wearables and other devices are being designed with sleek lines and flashy looks.
Of course, function comes first, but the medical devices with the highest adoption rates are usually aesthetically pleasing too. Bulky, large medical devices are simply not able to compete with attractive designs.
But it’s not just wearables that are being designed with looks in mind. Devices like MRI machines and ultrasound devices are being modeled to be pleasing to look at. Even to physicians, an appealing aesthetic translates into a higher adoption rate. Luckily, aesthetically pleasing designs are typically coupled with ergonomics, and whether a device is uncomfortable to use makes a huge difference.
Home Health Care
As mentioned, the senior population is set to drastically increase over the next 20 years thanks to advances in medicine, a focus on healthy lifestyles, and the ability to manage illness at home. Releasing sick people from hospitals with illnesses that can be managed at home improves the quality of life for patients and relieves overcrowded hospitals.
Medical devices are being designed to facilitate this. The types of devices being manufactured include respiratory equipment, IV pumps, assistive technology, test kits, and monitoring equipment. Because they are being designed for users without a background in medicine, they are created with simplicity and ease-of-use in mind.
These devices also pave the way for a more individualized type of healthcare. Big data is easy to collect when users are operating the devices themselves out of their homes. This allows medical device companies to gather the data need to create products that offer personalized experiences based on user need and to identify needs that aren’t being met by current products.
Artificial intelligence is seeping into all types of design, including medical devices. Used correctly, AI-based technologies have the capability to improve healthcare in all aspects, from disease onset to ongoing treatment.
AI offers a unique skill set that’s valued in manufacturing. The ability to automate mundane, repetitive tasks is priceless, and it has great value for precision medicine and patient management. The healthcare industry is complex and will face shortages due to increasing and aging populations—AI based technology will help manage that growth.
AI can sift through big data and pinpoint trends and anomalies, affecting patient outcomes and treatments. It’s ability to do these mundane tasks frees up medical professionals to work on more pressing matters.
Home health care will also benefit in numerous way. It can offer reminders for patients to take their medication, as well as point out anomalies in data like blood pressure and glucose levels that are often measured at home. It lends itself to personalized healthcare in that it can analyze data to determine how patients can improve their lifestyles and symptoms, motivate and coach them on how to better themselves, and communicate that information to doctors. This allows for a more personalized and effective treatment plan.
Small Medical Device Companies Will Grow
The majority of medical device companies with less than 50 employees are planning to ramp up their spending on research and development, according to a study done by Emergo. Medium and large companies are more likely to decrease or spend the same as last year, marking a disparity between the two groups.
Smaller companies typically have fewer products in the pipeline and need to increase their offerings to maintain their profitability, whereas large companies already have many products generating revenue. This could explain the disparity between the two, but it is interesting to note that many new products that will pop up in 2018 will be from smaller, independent companies.
Competition is always great, as it forces innovation and refinement. The majority of small businesses say they have identified needs in the marketplace that are unmet, which is where their spending is going. This makes for a healthy marketplace and forces complacent manufacturers to update their existing products to compete.
Combating Security Issues
There are bound to be security breaches in the healthcare industry as it integrates more technology and IoT devices. Hacks can affect patients’ personal and private lives, and in the case of medical technology, it can have dire consequences.
Medical device industrial companies, in collaboration with governments, need to put in place ways to protect data and the users of these devices. Patient-related information is of high value and is bound to be the target of attacks, not to mention that wearable devices can be used to surveil their wearers. It’s definitely a freighting consequence of fusing technology with healthcare but is one that we will have to face nonetheless.
The medical device industry is changing drastically. It’s one of the industries that will be affected most by the rise of AI, which will dictate the future of medical device design. I don’t see this trend dying out anytime soon.
If you need assistance with medical device development, we can help. We can connect you with freelance medical device designers that have experience creating 3D CAD designs and prototypes of medical devices. Or, if you’re looking for manufacturers, we can also help with that. Simply send us a message to get a quote and kick start your design!