Medical device industries in the US, Europe, and Australia are well-established with several different types of advanced technologies and techniques readily available in the respective markets. However, over in Asia Pacific, most markets are still very much in the development stages.
Doctors and surgeons working in Asia are looking to shorten the recovery period and improve the treatment outcome for patients, yet most of the time they are not able to find the same technological tools as those available in the more advanced markets.
The medical device trends in Asia are geared towards bringing more benefits to the patients, also called patient-centric benefits, such as: improved treatment outcome, improved accuracy, reduced recovery time, improved adherence, and diminished adverse effects.
Here are the key trends that are expected to shape the medical devices sector in Asia in 2022.
1. Minimally Invasive Surgery
Asia’s minimally invasive surgery (MIS) devices market is expected to grow immensely. The major factors for this growth include the increasing prevalence of lifestyle-related illnesses, chronic disorders, and technological advancements.
The shift from open surgery or a big incision to a small incision, for example in the area of orthopedics, is becoming more prominent in Asia. With MIS, surgeons use a variety of techniques to operate with minimal injury to the body as compared to open surgery.
Surgery is usually done through one or more small incisions using small tubes and tiny video cameras, as well as surgical instruments. For example, the use of a miniature 3D camera with microscopes, tiny fiber-optic flashlights, and high-definition monitors will provide a magnified view. This will allow surgeons greater precision, more flexibility, and better control. In general, it is safer than open surgery and allows patients to recover faster and heal with less pain and scarring.
Continual innovations in MIS make it useful for an ever-expanding list of procedures. Many procedures involve the use of arthroscopic or laparoscopic devices and remote-control manipulation of instruments with indirect observation through an endoscope or large display panel. The surgery is usually carried out through the skin, a small body cavity, or anatomical opening and can involve a robot-assisted system. The other patient benefits include:
- Smaller incisions mean less trauma to the body and less blood loss
- Scarring is reduced as most incisions require minimal stitches
- Shorter recovery period. Recovery from traditional surgery typically takes six to eight weeks, while patients who have undergone MIS usually recover in only two weeks
- Shortened hospital stay. Most MIS procedures are associated with a 48-hour discharge or scheduled outpatient surgery
2. Wireless Technology and Smart Devices
Traditionally, in healthcare we use remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices to track a patient’s health post-procedure, and this typically occurs in acute situations, or for chronic disease management. The data collected can keep clinicians informed about a variety of metrics, such as weight, blood sugar, blood oxygen, and heart rate.
RPM involves providing patients with at-home measurement devices, wearable sensors, symptom trackers, or patient portals. It enables clinicians to monitor their patients’ physical signs so that they can make well-informed assessments of their health and when necessary, provide treatment recommendations without needing to see them in person.
The use of these smart/wireless devices has grown immensely since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak as people were forced to limit their public exposure. These devices can now help patients and healthcare providers to stay connected using video calls and telehealth communications and real-time data tracking of a patient’s health.
The benefits of RPM for patients include improved health outcomes and a better patient experience. It allows healthcare providers to connect with patients from the comfort of the patient’s home, eliminating logistical challenges or the need to take time off from work to make appointments. It also helps to reach people in areas with limited healthcare access.
RPM helps doctors and nurses to take a more flexible approach to patient management. They can schedule appointments when patients’ signs and symptoms deviate from the norm, conduct assessments remotely via video consultation, and use these to provide quicker feedback loops in modifying treatment.
3. Augmented Reality and Robotics
Augmented reality (AR) and robotics can be beneficial in supporting an operation or surgery. This new trend has a lot of potential in Asia, and it is one of the most promising digital health technologies at present that can transform healthcare and medicine treatments completely for physicians and patients.
Virtual reality and AR technologies are being used in classrooms to help surgeons prepare for the tasks ahead. Particularly in surgical training in which you can save a lot of resources by using AR. For example, you will put on a pair of glasses that will allow you to see 3D visualization of the wound, then you can mimic the real surgical/operating procedure without having to bring in the bulky operating table and the infected body parts. This can cut costs for the hospital and make training more interesting.
This will enable healthcare professionals to train on any procedure and to stay on top of the latest advancements in medical technology. This technology will improve patient outcomes, increase the adoption of higher-value medical technologies, and democratize global access to the latest surgical techniques.
Some examples of AR being applied in medicine and healthcare practices include:
- Saving lives by showing the location and availability of defibrillators nearby
- Helping new mothers with breast-feeding with Google Glass
- Patients describing their symptoms better through AR
- Nurses finding veins easier with AR
- In heart surgery, doctors using AR glasses can access the patient’s data, scan records, and make more accurate decisions to benefit the patient and cut down operation time and cost
In the world of robotics, it is already being implemented at a greater scale compared to AR. One of the key robotic types is the robotically-assisted surgical device (RASD) or surgical robots. They are designed to assist medical professionals in surgeries for purposes such as MIS or enhancement of visuals for reaching confined body locations. Robotic arms can be adopted by a surgeon to do intricate and delicate surgeries. This creates a more sanitary space for both the patient and the surgeon.
Used in orthopedics, it can help in knee replacement surgery which needs a high accuracy rate. In the past, the result of this type of surgery could be varied depending on the level of expertise of the surgeon and they may end up taking too much or too little bone, with risk of parallax error. With robotics, the surgery can be performed with great accuracy.
Additionally, hospital robots are now being used to provide functionalities like patient monitoring, transportation of hospital resources, and assist in patient communication.
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