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29th November 2016

The future of healthtech: are we there yet?

Treatment enhanced by artificial intelligence, robot-assisted surgery, ingestible diagnosis kits: a new healthcare revolution is knocking at the door. But are we ready for it?

A couple of weeks ago the global tech scene, startups and geeks from all walks of life gathered in Lisbon for the Web Summit. Hailed as Europe’s largest technology conference, the summit welcomed a whopping 50,000 participants eager find out more about the impact of tech on pretty much everything, from the way we do business to how we manage every little aspect of our daily lives.

Healthcare was not forgotten, and rightly so. The list of new technologies, also called healthtech, set to revolutionise the way we manage our health is endless: artificial intelligence, big data, virtual reality, robotics, genomics and wearables are just a few of them. Tomorrow’s healthcare will be cheaper, tailor-made and delivered in the comfort of our homes. The dozens of healthcare startups presenting their potentially game-changing innovations at the summit are testimony to this.

This is MedTech sat down with Bay McLaughlin, serial entrepreneur, co-founder and COO at Brinc, an accelerator for Internet of Things (IoT) companies, to try and find out about whether this healthtech revolution is here just yet.

“Healthtech innovation is a trend we see growing rapidly,” says Bay. “With our focus on IoT, our aim is to help connected technologies to exist. This is going to be key for healthcare: unlocking the world’s data to improve our lives.”

According to Bay, whose day job is to help startups make better strategic decisions, data will play a central role in the coming healthtech revolution – something many young innovators still fail to grasp. “Most companies skip the first step, and that’s collecting and analysing data. If you don’t have the data you’re just guessing.”

Not quite there yet…

Bay MacLaughlin, co-founder and COO at Brinc.ioWith complete genomes analysed in 24 hours, wearables and sensors monitoring our health 24/7, and ever-less invasive surgery techniques (adding to this all the life-changing medtech we cover on this blog), it seems we have all the pieces to build the new healthcare puzzle.

Yet, breakthrough technologies and treatment fail to reach the masses. “This is going to take a while, even with the excitement,” confesses Bay. And while understanding our health data is critical, it is only one piece of the puzzle. “The big challenge still is that people think it’s all about the data. But to get it to a scale where it matters, to bring innovation to millions of people, it also takes physical operations – one doesn’t go without the other.” Bay also thinks another obstacle comes from fear. “Today we still don’t see enough investment in health startups compared to tech startups. Investors are scared of regulations and fear losing out,” he adds.

Endless possibilities

Yet, the impact could – and will be – life changing: the promise of truly personalised healthcare, with no more anxiety, stress and (sometimes life-threatening) side-effects of endless testing and trial-and-error treatments. “Getting more data on ourselves will allow doctors to treat us better. Right now they’re shooting in the dark,” says Bay.

What’s next for healthtech? “Home testing and persistent testing (i.e. testing that takes into account your previous health history) are coming right up. It will be the next big thing,” says Bay. “I also believe that in the future you won’t be able to be admitted into a hospital without checking in with your health data.”

While some of it might be a little scary, healthtech is definitely going to empower each one of us to live better and fuller lives, and own on our health in ways we never imagined before.

Interested in this topic? Follow the conversation around the 2016 MedTech Forum on 1 and 2 December using #MTF2016 for more insights on the impact of technology and digitalisation on healthcare and medtech.  For more information about the forum, click here.