4 health technology trends to watch in 2022

By Naveed Saleh, MD, MS
Published November 16, 2021

Key Takeaways

Healthcare costs are off the charts. In the United States, federal healthcare spending is rocketing toward 20% of the GDP. Chronic disease accounts for the vast majority of spending, which amounts to a staggering $3.8 trillion annually. And, it costs more to manage chronic diseases than it does other conditions.

However, rapid gains in healthcare delivery and cheaper wireless communications have given hope that cost-effective solutions could enhance the status quo. And while it's hard to find the upsides in a pandemic, COVID-19 did accelerate some medical technology innovations and processes to the fast track.

Let’s take a look at four emerging trends for 2022 that could improve patient care, decrease costs, and improve access to healthcare. 

Remote patient monitoring

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is a branch of telehealth that constitutes healthcare practice of the future, relying on a gamut of devices such as implantables, blood pressure cuffs, and sensors collecting data via passive means. RPM is mostly used with patients who have been discharged, as well as between routine office exams. 

RPM technology can communicate data entered by the user, as well as store and call attention to it. Physicians can then access the data, review it, and act on it.

Patients can also generate their own data using RPM, including their health history, biometric data, symptoms, and information about lifestyle. The continuing expansion of RPM has compounded the amount and types of patient-generated health data available.

The American Heart Association sees a lot of promise in RPM, and recently issued a position statement that included the following:

“Remote patient monitoring (RPM) can empower patients to better manage their health and participate in their health care. When used by clinicians, RPM can provide a more holistic view of a patient’s health over time, increase visibility into a patient’s adherence to a treatment, and enable timely intervention before a costly care episode ... The American Heart Association supports initiatives that increase access to and incentivize the appropriate design and use of evidence-based remote patient monitoring technologies.”

‘Big Data’

You’ve likely heard “Big Data” discussed in the media. The term was coined in the 1990s in reference to data sets that are too cumbersome to be analyzed by common software. More recently, the definition evolved to include data that is high volume, high velocity, highly variable, high quality, trustworthy, and valuable. This data need specific technology and analytic methods to leverage. 

With respect to medicine, Big Data uncovers health patterns and offers solutions that as of yet have been unattainable. It can offer quick answers to complex questions. Big Data is lined up to be a huge health trend in 2022.

With regard to healthcare, Big Data can derive from the following:

  • Electronic health data (eg, EMR, demographics, images)

  • Biobanks to aid with research-design efforts

  • Biometric data from portable wellness trackers

Big Data does pose certain challenges, according to the findings of a review published in SAGE Open Medicine. According to the authors, “the murkiness of international laws, questions of data ownership, public ignorance, and privacy and security concerns are slowing down the progress that could otherwise be achieved by the use of big data … this trend is positive and will likely lead to better clinical solutions, but, caution must be exercised to reduce harm.”

'Internet of things'

Like Big Data, the term Internet of Things (IoT) is another technology buzzword that has been disseminated widely in the media. It refers to a system of connected digital devices that collect, store, and convey data via a digital network without human or computer assistance. Examples of IoT include RPM, as well as devices, connected inhalers, and contact lenses.  

In the aggregate, IoT-based healthcare can make health systems more efficient and improve measures of population health, as well as making the delivery of healthcare safer and more effective. According to the authors of a review published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, IoT has the potential to streamline and enhance health care delivery to predict and diagnose diseases. It can also help monitor inpatients and outpatients. With respect to preventive public health services, it can coordinate current secondary/tertiary health care. Notably, the COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed the use of IoT and other technologies across the world. 

But, the adoption of IoT involves challenges. These barriers include resistance or lack of confidence by healthcare professionals and patients, as well as concerns over data storage, privacy, interoperability, and ownership. Moving forward, the successful adoption of IoT will rely on the strategy and support of healthcare organizations.

Digital therapeutics

DTx represents a sector of digital health comprising technologies, products, and services that span healthcare and wellness industries. The term was coined in 2015 to refer to evidence-based behavioral treatments delivered online and facilitated by software that can enhance accessibility and effectiveness of healthcare, as well as prevent, manage, or treat diseases. DTx is used with drugs and devices to improve patient care.

DTx programs monitor blood sugar readings, medication regimens, diet, and exercise to offer the physician a global picture of the patient’s health. In other words, these measures can provide a compelling survey of lifestyle and daily activities. Examples include behavioral modifications needed for diabetes management and personalized therapies for depression and anxiety.

The authors of a review published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care wrote, “These therapies have the potential to change what the pharmaceutical industry sells, catering to both providers and patients both by selling not just a drug, but a combination of drugs and digital services. An increasing number of pharmaceutical companies are taking a thoughtful approach to DTx.”

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