December 01, 2017

Top trends at Medica 2017

Medica Düsseldorf is the annual trade show for medical devices, the largest of its kind worldwide. Bringing together more than a hundred thousand international specialists, Medica 2017 uncovered the latest developments of the rapidly changing medical world. Being deeply interested in the future of healthcare, we couldn’t miss the chance to visit the event. For VanBerlo it is the place to update ourselves on trends in the healthcare business and to explore our possibilities. Here is a breakdown of what we saw on show.

World of data
It was immediately clear that digitalization and system integration continue to be the most prominent industry trends. Diagnosis is done in more detail and combines a mass of multidimensional data. Sophisticated devices that are capable of collecting this data get smaller and find their way onto the home diagnosis market. The avalanche of information is a challenge to processing: systems must have carefully designed algorithms to make sense to medical specialists and even more so to end consumers. We see that in new devices, UI designers pick up this challenge by condensing and focusing the data to help users get the essence out of all the information.

One step further, analysis of statistical big data offers great opportunities in improving the effectiveness of care, but we see that for now, initiatives are mostly experimental. One barrier is the concern about data security, another is the lack of standardization.

Technology is on the rise. Robots and cobots are a familiar sight

Challenges of UI and product design
One presentation we saw concluded that whilst the industry is being pushed forward by new (mostly digital) technology, institutions and legislation have a hard time keeping up. Electronics patient filing will soon become essential to create efficient care networks and deal with detailed data but its adoption is slow and alignment of systems between countries is only now being explored.

Condensed information, shorter contact moments between medical personnel and the patient, pressure on costs and the availability of home devices are factors that will change the character of care in the future. We see monitoring and care taking place at home with the help of the personal devices or in ambulant care, while hospitals are increasingly serving the elderly.

Home and wearable products follow consumer trends…

…while developments in hospitals are often slower

Visual design of devices seems to be driven mostly by evolutions in their internal technology, not so much by the urge to keep styling up to date. Even radical innovations under the hood and expansion in processing power don't often lead to new form factors or ways of interaction. This means that aesthetics stay unchanged over many product generations. We saw exceptions to this rule in some products by start-up companies that experiment with new technologies.

We saw some examples of the application of VR and AR – for example, in training programs for surgery. We had expected to see more innovation here, as the technology seems to have great potential in healthcare.

From patient to consumer
Some manufacturers realize that consumers are accustomed to the ease of interaction of their electronic devices when they design product for healthcare. They manage to make users feel like pro-active customers rather than patients. A similar step forward is being made in the interaction between professional users and their equipment, although the visual design of user interface screens is not always at the same level of refinement as the enclosure that they are on.

What stays behind is the convenience for the patient in hospital settings. Here, customer experience seems to be translated primarily into efficiency and speed of care but little is done to serve the comfort of the patient – let alone to making them feel like participating stakeholders.

Global market
It was curious to see the large number of Asian companies among more than 5000 exhibitors. The medical device markets of China and India show annual growth of 15% - twice as fast as the total market. The impression is somewhat distorted though: the American and European countries still dominate, between them making up 75% of the world market and they are also by far the largest exporters. Asian production and sales are growing fast but they are now mostly expanding in their home markets.

Asian manufacturers are active in all categories of healthcare devices

On the hardware technology level there are still many developments going. Much of this takes place in highly specialist areas but overall, the trend is towards ever more specialized treatments and patient-customized care.

Robotic heart massage - a new trend in critical care?

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