The conversations around what a post-COVID-19 market will look like continue to evolve on a weekly, daily, and even hourly basis. And keeping up to date on every development is integral to being at the forefront of your industry, especially in healthcare. As we become more equipped to fight the virus and return to a semblance of our pre-COVID lives, medical manufacturers, investors, and analysts are looking into the future of healthcare, particularly medical technology (MedTech).
For the second year in a row, the MedTech sector has seen substantial growth in its deal volume. The number of deals rose to 96 from 55 in 2020, resulting in four transactions last year of $1 billion or more, the highest count to date. But what’s been driving change within the market?
In AlphaSense, we dug into the rising and declining trends that are revolutionizing the MedTech industry. Robotics, digital therapeutics, telemedicine and AI are some of the most prominent topics mentioned within our platform quarter-over-quarter. Below, we compiled what voices within this sector are sharing to peak interest in these emerging areas of digital health opportunity.
Related Reading: 16 MedTech Companies to Watch
MedTech Trends Transforming Post-Pandemic Healthcare
Throughout the pandemic, as cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations climbed during surge seasons, medical professionals often treated non-emergency healthcare matters via online video call platforms. Seizing the opportunity, MedTech companies have begun investing and investigating how to shift healthcare into digital platforms. While mentions have plateaued since their peak in March 2020 and even declined among analysts, they are overall still considerably high, even as we come closer to the end of the pandemic. Company documents and news outlets are showing an upward trend in conversations about the topic, as executives across the industry continue to discuss opportunities for virtual healthcare.
Equity research proved to be the most abundant source of material in the platform discussing telemedicine and its relevance in the future of healthcare. The consensus from these reports illustrates a strong belief that telemedicine or virtual healthcare will see significant growth in the coming fiscal years, some deeming it a lasting legacy of the pandemic.
As demand for telemedicine grows, there proves to be a continued adoption and usage of virtual services. While this trend may show signs of diminishing, analysts believe it’s not a decision whether healthcare systems will adopt telemedicine into their practices but how they’ll integrate it.
Research surfaced in our platform relayed how companies like Reliq Health Technologies Inc., a software company that develops technology solutions for remote patient monitoring and telemedicine, are positioned to thrive in a post-pandemic world. As government and private insurance continue to include telemedicine services under their coverage, a growing population of individuals are choosing virtual care.
Within the AlphaSense platform, American medical device company Medtronic has seen over an 81% increase in documentation mentioning telehealth. In a recent company conference, Medtronic relayed the importance virtual healthcare will play in the current staffing shortages hospitals are facing across the country:
“And I would say that many — and most of them though are mitigating this in the meantime by using traveling or temporary staff and driving a greater adoption of technologies with remote monitoring and telehealth,” says Karen L. Parkhill, EVP, CFO, IT & Enterprise Excellence at Medtronic.
While telehealth conversations appear to be plateauing in the AlphaSense platform, mentions of AI applications within healthcare are steadily rising, especially within our library of patent applications and clinical trials. Executives are frequently mentioning how AI and machine learning is being applied to overcome healthcare challenges, as well as how they are proving to be beneficial to patients and the medical teams that operate them. For example, physicians, surgeons, and nurses can retrieve insightful analytics and drive care optimization and workflow efficiency through predictive AI-powered systems.
Company documents are proven to be a leading content source within AlphaSense for AI in medicine. Already, leaders in healthcare manufacturing are sharing how they’re integrating AI in telemedicine and imaging to treat various conditions, from diabetic retinopathy to blood cancer and even internal bleeding. In addition, some manufacturers are considering how AI could be utilized to assist medical professionals in their patient consultations (i.e. AI voice-activated assistants to transcribe doctors’ notes). In the eyes of medical manufacturers, there seem to be endless possibilities for how AI can be woven into healthcare.
Koninklijke Philips, a health technology company improving people’s health and well-being through meaningful innovation, has been one of the more prominent advocates for the use of AI in healthcare. As the top company within the AlphaSense platform to mention “AI,” Phillips sees potential in applying AI to optimize how practitioners diagnose and treat conditions.
“At Philips, we have long held to believe and invested appropriately that informatics, especially AI-enabled informatics, is a key future differentiator that will unlock the value of imaging to precision diagnosis,” François Adrianus van Houten, Chairman of the Board of Management & CEO at Phillips, said in their Q2 2022 Earnings Call. “AI reading, moreover, will lead to better diagnosis, and hence, better clinical outcomes, another one of the quadruple aims.”
Sanofi has also been a major healthcare company leading the conversation about AI.. The French pharmaceutical company recently partnered with Exscientia to establish strategic research collaboration to develop an AI-driven pipeline of precision-engineered medicine. Sanofi and Exscientia will yield 15 novel small molecule candidates across oncology and immunology, leveraging Exscientia’s end-to-end AI-driven platform utilizing actual patient samples.
“We look forward to deepening our work with Exscientia, a leader in leveraging AI to modernize all aspects of drug discovery and development,” says Frank Nestle, Global Head of Research and Chief Scientific Officer at Sanofi. “Application of sophisticated AI and machine learning methods will not only shorten drug discovery timelines but will also help to design higher quality and better-targeted medicines for patients.”
In the AlphaSense platform, there has been an increasing trend in conversations around automation in the MedTech realm, specifically, the use of robots in surgery. The COVID-19 virus certainly propelled the concept of replacing human workers with robots and it seems these mechanical employees are here for the long haul.
Patents and clinical trials have been a steady, reliable source of information on how robotics are continuously revolutionizing surgery. Medical device manufacturers and healthcare companies are seriously reconsidering how procedures can be performed and, more so, how much more precise and less invasive they can be. Several inventions from MedTech leaders have introduced robots that rely on fully-automated or remote-controlled functions, which mitigates the risk of potential human-caused errors that can occur during operation.
Globus Medical Inc. has recently gained media attention for submitting a number of patent applications for various medical robots, their latest being one that leverages a position recognition system that allows surgeons to determine the position and location of a particular object in 3D. In robot-assisted surgeries, surgical instruments need to be tracked with high precision as the instrument is being positioned or moved by a robot or physician. These surgical systems can therefore utilize position feedback to precisely guide the movement of robotic arms and tools relative to a patient’s surgical site.
Intuitive Surgical Inc. (ISRG) remains a leader in developing surgical robotics within the MedTech market, as it is one of the largest companies to produce medical machinery that improves the clinical outcomes of patients through minimally invasive surgery. Their latest patent introduces a wireless communication and power supply in a telerobotic surgical system that will allow surgeons to preserve a sterile environment when inserting instruments into a patient using a mechanical arm.
While the number of conversations mentioning digital therapeutics is the lowest compared to the topics mentioned above, it is also experiencing a tremendous spike driven largely by company press releases, trade journals, and clinical trials. Analysts are discussing potential growth opportunities. However, they are slightly less bullish in citing issues around reimbursement and the effectiveness of these technologies.
Across the AlphaSense platform, mentions of digital therapeutics have climbed due to the fact that they provide the opportunity for global healthcare. Evidence-based, clinically-approved and FDA-cleared software that can be accessed through one’s medical device and work in tandem with the prescriptions one’s physician prescribes is filling a gap experts believe cannot be filled with one-on-one medical consultations.
In short, digital therapeutics are poised for long-term success within the healthcare industry. But expert calls, equity research, and company documents are a line of questioning about the regulatory and reimbursement models emerging from this growing competitive landscape.
By having users rely on software or a platform for medical guidance rather than in-person medical consultations, many are digging deeper into the pathways in which the FDA legitimizes digital therapeutics. Though, a prior Customer Success Operations Manager at Augmedix believes that if digital therapeutics pass through the traditional systems set in place by the administration, then they’re reliable.
“In regards to digital therapeutics, preventative care is so important.” says the expert in one of our Stream calls. “Especially, currently, we have so much technology to be able to enhance that in our country. The fact that we’re taking it a step further in the digital space, honestly, it’s life-changing. With the FDA, as long as there are clinical trials that are completed and everything is run by people that have experience in the field, as long as there’s enough research and enough science behind it, with the FDA, things should be passed accordingly. That’s how we probably progress in the medical field and how we evolve in terms of ways to continue saving patient lives.”
As a result of the pandemic, almost every facet of medicine has had to reprioritize its approach to digital healthcare. Topics like telemedicine, AI, robotics, and digital therapeutics have become central to the conversations medical professionals have about medicine’s future. But what does that future look like? Download our whitepaper, The Future of HealthCare Technology: The Rise of Digital Health, to learn about the leading trends and post-pandemic outlooks shaping virtual care.