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DIGITAL HEALTHCARE TECHNOLOGY PRE- AND POST-PANDEMIC


ACCELERATING THE TRANSFORMATION TO PREDICTIVE CARE

For most patients, the process of reaching a diagnosis is familiar and predictable. You meet with your physician, undergo a battery of tests at the doctor’s office, work toward an interpretation of your symptoms and plan for care.

But what if it didn’t work that way? What if, instead of following a reactive approach to treatment, doctors had access to digital healthcare technology that could help identify early warning signs using data captured from genomic analysis, advanced imaging or a wearable device—and then, rather than treating an existing illness or condition, devise a plan to help prevent it instead? And what if wearable technologies could identify and alert people to indicators of viral infection before symptoms develop?

“We’re using the digital concept to keep people out of the hospital and treat diseases sooner in the process using interventions based on remote patient monitoring,” says Dr. Curtis Lowery, director of the Institute for Digital Health and Innovation at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. “Now we’re able to treat people in their home, with data flowing in from an electronic scale, a blood pressure monitor or even a pulse oximeter.” In the midst of a global pandemic, the ability to assess data and treat patients virtually has benefits beyond convenience and cost savings. Now virtual treatment is an added safety measure that can literally save lives.

“We're using the digital concept to keep people out of the hospital and treat diseases sooner in the process using interventions based on remote patient monitoring.”

Curtis Lowery

Director of the Institute for Digital Health and Innovation | University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the digital healthcare technology industry’s leading innovators, including Analog Devices, were already putting next-generation technology into the hands of providers. One example is vital-signs-monitoring technologies, like wearables and hearables. With them, unobtrusive data capture takes place continuously—even when the patient leaves the doctor’s office. This allows physicians to extract actionable insights, making it easier to reach accurate diagnoses. Now, according to Pat O’Doherty, senior vice president of digital healthcare at Analog Devices, the pandemic has resulted in a tidal wave of demand for their crucial digital health technology products. “We prioritized the production of healthcare-related technologies that are essential for medical devices on the front line, such as ventilators, infusion pumps, patient monitors, diagnostic testers, CT scanners and digital X-ray machines.”

A CALL FOR CARE

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 in 10 Americans live with a chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart disease. These illnesses are among the leading causes of death in the United States and, along with mental health, comprise 90% of the country’s $3.5 trillion annual healthcare expenditures. Add an aging population and a projected shortage of registered nurses into the mix, and you begin to understand the urgency around the adoption of new digital health solutions.

“There’s a very serious challenge for the finances of the healthcare system, and it will ultimately result in poor patient care unless we can intervene and transform it to be more patient-centered,” says Martin Cotter, senior vice president of sales and digital marketing at Analog Devices. “That means driving efficiency for all the different partners of the ecosystem, whether it’s the physician, provider, payer or patient.”

THE RISING COST OF HEALTHCARE

Healthcare expenditures in the United States are the highest in the world, and costs are only expected to grow in the years ahead.

$3.5T
U.S. HEALTHCARE SPENDING IN 2017
$6T
PROJECTED SPENDING BY 2027
Sources: “National Health Expenditures 2017 Highlights,” Department of Health & Human Services; “National Health Expenditure Projections 2018-2027,” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

With decades of expertise developing sensors used for vital signs monitoring, Analog Devices is enabling the next generation of wearables that could put the digital healthcare technology industry (and patients) on a more positive path. For example, picture the traditional fingerstick test diabetes patients use, typically multiple times a day, to monitor blood glucose levels and administer insulin. Now picture a low-profile sensor that sits at the surface of the skin and takes continuous measurements, providing an uninterrupted view of the patient’s health.

Devices like this are giving diabetics an improved quality of life, and physicians are also empowered, helping patients better manage their disease and potentially even slow its progression.

“It’s better to measure the patient over a long period of time rather than only in a controlled, clinical environment. The inclusion of real-world conditions provides much more accurate data, giving physicians a better way to manage the health of their patients,” Cotter says. “An even more exciting proposition would be to non-invasively track the progression of chronic diseases, so that we can someday keep the patient from needing a particular medication.”

While some continuous monitoring solutions are already available, the technology has yet to fully proliferate throughout the industry, leaving the door open for all manner of innovation. Analog Devices’ wearable health monitor resembles a typical smart watch, but constantly pulls data about the wearer’s heart rate, body temperature and other vital signs. It can be worn on the wrist or as a patch on the skin, storing measurements on an SD card or wirelessly sending the data to a smart device. With its combination of embedded sensors, processing power and wireless communication, ADI’s wearable health monitor could be a model for the next stage of digital health.

Analog Devices is also collaborating with a nanosensor point-of-care diagnostics leader to deliver rapid viral and bacterial test technologies that could have major impact on detection and prevention of COVID-19 and future pandemics.

“Care is rapidly moving out of hospitals and toward the home, creating the need for a new generation of clinical-grade technology products that are smaller, easier to use and lower cost. The rate of this fundamental change is accelerating due to the pandemic and we are prioritizing our r&d investments to be able to meet this new demand.”

Patrick O’Doherty

Senior Vice President of Digital Healthcare | Analog Devices

CARE YOU CAN WEAR

Wearable devices could soon allow patients to continuously monitor various health parameters, driving a more preventative approach to care. Meanwhile, wireless connectivity would arm physicians with a continuous stream of data.

Blue illustrated hand with smart watch and healthcare icons

BRINGING IMAGING INTO FOCUS

While some of healthcare’s biggest opportunities will take place in the home, the instrumentation used in hospitals and clinical settings is also getting an upgrade. The technology behind common tests like X-rays and CT scans is becoming more sensitive and precise, resulting in higher-resolution images with lower noise levels.

Analog Devices’ deep experience developing signal processing technology and sensors enabling data collection—connecting the physical world with the digital one—plays a similarly vital role here. “With CT scanning, precision sensing allows for faster scan times, reducing the dose of radiation to the patient,” says Jen Lloyd, vice president of precision technology and platforms at Analog Devices. “Meanwhile, artificial intelligence can be applied to the images to draw the physician’s attention to certain key areas, allowing them to work more efficiently.”

THE PICTURE OF HEALTH

DIGITAL IMAGING SOLUTIONS DRIVE EFFICIENCY IN THE HOSPITAL WHILE SUPPORTING PHYSICIAN DECISION-MAKING.
Blue icon of bone joint with blue square border

DIGITAL X-RAYS

Converting an analog signal can save thousands of dollars in chemical processing costs and can result in a clearer, lower-noise image.

Blue icon of person going into CT scanner with blue square border

CT SCANS

Precision sensors and digital processors improve image quality and reduce scan times, exposing patients to less radiation.

Blue icon of ultrasound device with blue square border

ULTRASOUNDS

Analog-to-digital converters with higher resolutions and data rates are paving the way toward 3D imaging while bringing down the cost of machines.

Precise imaging, clinical-grade vital sign monitoring, and improved digital healthcare technology, O’Doherty explains, are helping physicians improve diagnosis accuracy and allowing people to manage chronic illnesses more effectively. But the ultimate goal is to move from reactive to predictive medicine altogether, resulting in a better quality of life for people and reducing the strain on the health care system.

“I’m seeing an appetite among practitioners for digital technology that helps manage the cost of healthcare, to be able to reduce the amount of time that people are ill or cure something before it becomes a problem. My sense is that we’re in for decades of potentially very explosive growth in the healthcare sector, both at the large machine diagnostics level and at the everyday, human level.”

Vincent Roche

President and CEO | Analog Devices

Keeping pace with explosive growth will require more than just further investment in digital health, but also sophisticated wellness, imaging and vital-signs-measurement solutions developed by technology partners who are already driving the transformation.