the brain of M3

Exploring the Future of Healthcare with Strategic Foresight

Deep understanding of product development trends and broad knowledge of multiple industries informs innovation. Start with the Strategic Foresight process.

Hosted By | Heather Benoit
Technology is changing rapidly. Concepts that were once mainstays of science fiction are quickly becoming reality – and disrupting traditional business models. Healthcare is no exception.

To stay ahead of the curve, it’s important for companies to look ahead and plan proactively. And while no one can glimpse directly into the future and make perfectly accurate predictions, a deep understanding of product development trends and a broad framework for analyzing them can inform the discovery of probable and viable scenarios.

In this webinar, we’ll discuss the technologies and trends that are shaping the future of healthcare. Join us to:

  • Learn about the general strategic foresight methodology
  • Discover mild/wild alternative futures spectrums
  • Discuss emerging trends and technologies in healthcare

Imagining the future is the first step in building it. Watch the Webinar video to learn more.

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Hello, everybody. Today’s webinar on exploring the future of healthcare with strategic foresight. My name is John Bernero and I am the COO at M3 Design. I’ll be moderating today’s session. Joining me today is Heather Benoit, Our presenter, who is a Senior Mechanical Engineer at M3 Design. Today’s presentation will last about 40-45 minutes, and we’ll have time at the end for your questions. So go ahead and type in those questions at any point. We’ll make sure to answer as many as we can following the presentation. So without further ado, I’ll go ahead and turn this over to Heather.

Heather Benoit:

All right. Thanks, John. Like you mentioned, today we’ll be exploring the future of healthcare. And what that means is we’re going to look at some trends in healthcare, and we’re going to talk a little bit about the strategic foresight process. And foresight is really about the process of gaining insight into what can be, rather than predicting the future outright. And that’s so you can think strategically about how trends are going to affect your business in the future. So foresight can be used to identify emerging new trends, to look at transitions in established markets. And it’s really about kind of doing that quickly and efficiently, so you can get ahead of the competition and make some strategic choices about where you want to be in relation to the market.

So there’s a lot of different tools and methodologies that are included in strategic foresight, but I wanted to share this one here, and this is what’s called a futures cone. And right now it’s represented as a triangle, but you can imagine it’s a three dimensional cone. And on the bottom here, at this one point in time that represents today. And as time expands out into the future, the possibilities for what can be really start to expand, and you can see that represented in this graph here. And what this is really about is that it assumes that the future is not preset. It’s not predetermined. It’s something that our choices and actions today can have influence on. And looking out ahead, we can look at what’s likely and probable to happen, but we can also have influence on the things that are plausible or possible, and really make those come into fruition.

The Strategic Foresight, the process is really about getting to this one line here, which is your preferred future and making sure that that’s the one that comes to pass. So if you’re wondering why this is important and how this kind of works out in a real, tangible business way, I’d point you to this report entitled Corporate Foresight and Its Impact on Firm Performance. And one of their key findings was that future prepared firms outperform the average by 33% higher profitability and at 200% higher growth. So this has real implications for actual business models and market share, and it can profoundly impact your revenue. That same report also found that almost 50% of firms were not really well prepared for this.

So it was something that they didn’t really have good methodologies in place, the right mindsets in place, and that didn’t really leave them in a good position to make good and viable decisions moving forward. And so the way this plays out in business, I just have one word for what that means, and that is blockbuster. So we all know the story of how Netflix came in and really uprooted Blockbuster’s business model. And this is a perfect example of how not thinking about change and not understanding how emerging technologies can affect your business can really disrupt your market and even lead to bankruptcy and closure. So it’s a really great quote from this article, “Netflix embraced change and Blockbuster didn’t.” And that really sums up what happened here.

So foresight, the way we do it is really a three step process. The first step of that is to analyze what has happened in the past events that have already transpired. And to look at current trends and emerging technologies, and understand where they are in the market and how that might adapt. The second step of that is really a creative endeavor into exploring alternative futures and extrapolating today’s trends and kind of trying to understand where they might go and how they might play out. And then the third step of that is to strategize, to build a plan around the things that you’ve learned in the first two steps and to shape that to where you want to get.

So today’s focus is really on the first two and we’ll save strategy for another discussion. So today, there’s two strategic foresight tools I want to talk about. And this is just in relation to the conversation we’ll have later about medical device trends and healthcare trends. And the first one is S-curves. So S-curves are used by futurists to really understand the maturity of a technology and how it’s emerging. And you can see here on this chart at the bottom, we have time, and on the vertical, we have the development maturity of that technology. And we have this S-curve that kind of extends through the graph.

And it’s broken up into four sections. So the first section is for emerging issues. This is where you have a lot of fringe thinking. You read about things in science fiction. You might see them in art. The second step of the curve is early framing. So this is where the technology really starts to take a little bit more shape. You might see more academic research, some startups that are really exploring the technology and trying to understand how to use it. And it’s just some early competition. In the third stage, this is where technology really starts to become more mainstream and companies that haven’t embraced it and dabbled in it prior, earlier on the curve, start to react to what they’re seeing in the market. They’re kind of playing catch up.

And then the fourth area is when that technology has become established, it becomes the new normal. Government starts to regulate it. It just becomes the way we do things. And as the technology travels along this curve, what’s behind it has already happened. And what lies ahead of it is what could happen. And that’s what we can have influence over. But just to note, not all companies make it all the way up the curve. Some of them do die out before that happens. And a perfect example of this is Segway, which just last week announced that it’s ending production on its namesake product, the Segway Personal Transport Device. Which at one time back in 2001 seemed very futuristic and very innovative.

All right. And the next tool that we’re going to look at today is our Mild to Wild Alternative Future Spectrum. And this is a tool that we created to really just kind of simplify and make the process of creating scenarios and explore those a little bit simpler. So what you have here on the bottom is a scale from mild to wild. So on this end, the mild end, you might have more conservative, more near-term evolution of an emerging technology. And on the wild side, you might see something that’s a little bit more farfetched. And then on our vertical, we have plausibility. So the higher up on the scale you go, the more confidence we have that that might actually come to pass. And lower down, maybe it’s less probable.

So the thing you do here, is you pick a timeframe, maybe 20-30 years out that you want to look at. And you pick a technology. And as you think about that technology and research it, you start to shape some ideas on how that would be extrapolated out into the future and how that might evolve as it hits the market. And as you do this, you kind of continue to create alternative futures that really push that further. And maybe they start to merge with other technologies that are emerging, maybe some that have been around. And you start to play with how those could change our society or some different business market spaces and really see how they play out.

And the thing to note here, this is a great quote about the purpose of what building scenarios is for and why we do it. And the quote is this, “The metric of success for scenario work is not whether or not you got the future right. It’s whether or not they inspired and informed action that years later you were happy to have taken.” So building these scenarios is not about getting the future exactly right and each one of those actually coming to pass, it’s about inspiring action and making sure that you’re taking some action today to kind of think about what the future could be.

All right. And with that, we’re going to transition into talking about healthcare trends. And we’ll go from there. So there are obviously many, many trends and lots of different, interesting technologies that are being developed now that have kind of been developed over the last decade or so. And a lot of those are impacting healthcare today. But we’re not going to focus on all of these. This is just kind of an overview of a lot of different technologies. But for the sake of today, we’re going to focus on three mega trends. And those are remote medicine, preventative care and new treatment frontiers. And we’ll get into each of those. But for new treatment frontiers, we’ll really focus on just three. Which is genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, and nano technology.

All right. So for remote medicine, the first of our mega trends, there are three key technologies that we want to look at. The first one is telehealth and how it’s really expanded our ability to do remote examinations and consultations. The second one is robotics and smart peripherals, which is really shaping and changing how procedures are done and what can be done in those procedures. And then the third one is deployment. In this case, it’s automated transport and drones, which have really been disruptive to healthcare logistics. So the first one, telehealth is currently used for virtual visits, remote monitoring, clinical decision support, prescription refills, a lot of very low-touch, kind of conversational-based tasks. But we are seeing it kind of evolve with the release of new products that are really focused more on portability and more consumer-centric. So down here in the bottom corner, you have an ultrasound probe that connects to a smartphone.

It’s highly portable, can be used anywhere on the go. And then up here in the top corner is a suite of products designed by Title Care that are made to be used in the home. And that includes a smart stethoscope, a tongue depressor, and a device for examining the ear canal. And that transmits all that information and imagery to your physician directly through your smartphone. We’re also seeing some trends in at home testing and that becoming a lot more popular. So there are kits that you can order now where you can do food sensitivity testing, allergy testing, and you no longer need to go into the doctor’s office. So all of this is moving more and more into the home, more and more into the patient’s hands.

And it’s being adopted dramatically over the last couple of years. This is an AMA study that looked at the time period between 2016 and 2019. And they found 100% rise in usage of telemedicine. And over a quarter of their physicians were using that approach. That was all pre COVID-19. And since the pandemic started, we’ve seen just a dramatic growth in this industry. Before COVID hit the market for telemedicine was projected to reach about $55 billion over the next five years. But since the pandemic, that number has exploded to 186 billion in the same timeframe. So it’s really just an exponential amount of growth and adoption of this technology in the market.

All right. The next technology that we’re going to talk about is deployment. And that really has to do with unmanned vehicles, and automated vehicles and drones specifically. Today, drones are being used to deliver supplies, and medication and vaccines. They can be used to do on demand fulfillment. So physicians can order supplies as they need them. And then those can be turned around very quickly. So it’s very, very efficient. And we’re seeing it grow in less regulated and less urbanized countries. So this image here in the top of the box from Zipline, they actually have a number of services in Africa, namely in Rwanda, where they can fulfill physician’s orders right away. They take what would have normally been a four hour delivery time. And they’ve cut that back to about 15 minutes. So just a huge amount of efficiency gains logistically to be had there. And then there’s also some interest in how this technology can be applied to ambulances and emergency care. So this image in the bottom here is a concept of an ambulance drone that’s large enough to actually fly people around. So maybe that’s something that can replace medivac helicopters. And there’s a little bit of interest in seeing how you can apply some of these autonomous technologies to ground-based systems. There are a number of ongoing trials. Right now, there’s trials to test the viability of shipping biological samples between facilities, just making sure that specimens stay at the right temperature, that they’re not damaged during transit at any point. And that’s really enabling physicians to take samples in the field and ship them back to a facility for testing or for blood to be shipped out to the field where it’s really needed. There’s also some interest in improving logistics, just floor to floor in larger hospitals, or even between different facilities in a complex. Right now, hospitals might be relying on people to run samples from floor to floor, and that can be very inefficient.

And as they look to expand, infrastructure changes could be very costly. So drones are a really good option that are very efficient and very cost effective. An interesting point to note here though, is that once you have drones flying around in a hospital setting, you really have to start thinking about how drones navigate human psychology. They’ll have to navigate patients coming in and out of hallways, caregivers running around between patient rooms, and they’ll really have to adapt their flight paths to how the people are behaving in the space. It can’t just be optimized for what’s the most direct route to get to a different place.

And part of this too, we’re seeing drones more and more in emergency response. There are many different studies underway by different companies and in different countries. Most of those studies are showing that drones have a much faster response time than ambulances. Most of them reporting up to three times faster. I read one that was seven to 15 minutes faster. So those first few minutes are so critical in care and the drone’s ability to get to the patient that much faster is a really, really a very significant thing in terms of survivability for the patient. And these trials have been so successful that it’s actually resulting in some policy changes in some different locations around the world. So this headline here is from a province in Canada where the EMS crews were using drones that they had line of sight control over and after their study, they actually changed the policy allowing the EMS crews to use the drones beyond line of sight, which is a very significant milestone for the use of drones in EMS.

Something else to think about is as we start seeing more emergency response drones coming on to sites, now, we don’t have an ambulance showing up with a bunch of medical specialists who are highly trained, who know how to use different tools. So more and more of that responsibility is going to be offloaded onto the user. And they’re going to need to understand how to use those devices and how to set them up. So for instance, if a drone lands with an AED as in this image here, someone will have to know how to hook that up. There will have to be a way to communicate instructions to the user to make sure that they’re doing it correctly and to make sure they can use whatever the drone might have with it.

And something else that’s interesting to consider too is at this point, we might not be just dialing 9-1-1 and passing off our address directly to an operator. We might see more and more apps to be developed that can geo locate and can make it really, really quick for someone to pick what service they need because the thing with the drones is that they have a very small payload capacity and they can really only carry one thing. So the user will need to open that app and pick what they need. Is it an antivenom for a snake bite? Is it an AED for heart attack? Is it something else? And they’re going to need to be able to do that very quickly when they’re in a panic state and they might be in pain. So those user interfaces will become more and more critical.

All right. And the last key technology here for our first mega trend is robotics and smart peripherals. And there’s a number of surgical robotic platforms that are out on the market. They’re very, very precise, minimally invasive. They allow greater flexibility for physicians conducting their surgeries. And then we’re also seeing the development of more and more smart, connected AI tools like this drill in the bottom here. This drill offers real time control and performance feedback. It takes some of the guesswork out of the procedure. So those are becoming more and more common.

There are dozens of different companies that are operating in this market, and we’re starting to see more and more acquisitions by some of the major players. So in February of last year, J&J spent three and a half billion dollars to acquire one of these companies. And so we’re seeing a lot of investment and a lot of interest in further exploring where these fields can go. And one of the things to note is that physicians really rely on the touch and feel of different medical devices and how they’re conducting their surgeries. So it’s going to become increasingly important to maintain that haptic feedback and that tactility through these robotic platforms and that could be something that becomes a really significant sales driver for some of these companies in the future.

And with the rollout of 5G, remote surgeries are likely to become much more common. There were a number that were performed in China last year. Some of them up to almost 2000 miles in distance and just the ultra low latency signal is really changing how these procedures can be performed and who can perform them and giving patients better access to specialists and physicians that they might not otherwise have been able to have access to.

All right. So to summarize, those three technologies kind of in light of our mega trend, so we have all three of them on the S curve here and medical drones are probably the youngest of all of the three. They’re really just kind of branching out of sci-fi sort of idea and just a handful of companies trying to figure out how to get past regulations and how it makes sense to develop these business models with hospitals and deliver all these supplies. The surgical robotics are a little bit higher up on the curve. There’s a couple of companies, but not a ton. It’s not the new norm, but they’re definitely moving closer to being more mainstream. And then telehealth is very much in the mainstream third phase of our graph here. It’s fairly mature. COVID has certainly accelerated that, but any of the devices that support it that are kind of smart, connected devices might be a little lower on the curve.

And in terms of our mild to wild future spectrum, so on the more mild side, we might have specialists that are regularly conducting remote surgeries, maybe prescription medications and devices are all delivered by drone. And maybe we see fleets of drones in some major cities that are really replacing EMS teams and ambulances for emergency settings. And then on the wild side, maybe we see large fleets of autonomous ambulances that have the capacity to actually transfer humans around. Maybe we see AI enabled smart devices starting to control some aspects of the procedures and maybe we even start to see in the very far future, some minor surgical procedures that can be done in the home with some of these robotic technologies and telemedicine.

All right. And the key takeaways here are that healthcare really is transitioning to the home. It’s becoming more and more decentralized, that devices are going to need more and more consumer focused, but it’s also really important to remember that patients are not experts and whatever is designed needs to be intuitive and the language needs to be very approachable and clear so that people understand how to use it. As we design more and more of these devices, the ecosystems need to play nicely together. The experience of using those needs to be seamless even if you’re jumping between company to company.

And then on the bottom here, we have design optimization. Certainly for things that are being transported to the home and anything to do with drones, there needs to be some optimization around size and weight, flight paths and just the number of devices that are being shipped out and transported around the country. The next one here is regulations. So certainly with drones, there’s some regulatory issues with the FAA and then FDA, but also as more and more things go online, we’ll need to make sure that they’re secure and that people trust those systems and they’re not going to be any instances of hacking or theft that are going to eat away at people’s confidence. And then the last one here is just emergency applications. I think that really stands to be a significant driver for these technologies.

All right. Our second mega trend here is preventative care. And there’s two key technologies that are really influencing that. The first one is nutrition and how nutrition and food sciences and pharmacology are kind of coming together. And the second one is sensors and tracking and how we’re collecting more and more data and what that’s being used for. All right. So the first one is nutrition. So over the last couple of decades, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in chronic disease and obesity, and that’s due to a couple of different reasons, but one of them is that food production has really changed a lot over the last couple of decades.

Food today is really, really cheap, but it’s also very high in salt, sugar, and fat. So this is obviously a significant problem that needs to be addressed. And it’s leading to more and more interest in the ideas of nutrition and preventative health. We’re seeing the development of more and more sensors for tracking nutrition. So some of these little patches here that you see in some of these images can actually track what you consume. And then we’re also seeing the development of new food based or food production technologies, things like 3D printers you can see in these upper images, where additive manufacturing technologies are being used to actually create new ways to create food and new ways to actually build food.

And part of this is merging pharmacology kind of somewhere into this line of food development and nutrition. So there are a couple of companies out there that are looking to produce gummies and pills and different things that kind of incorporate food and medicine together and they’re using 2D printing technologies to do that. And what’s really interesting here is that there’s a big potential just in the immediate term to improve drug adherence by customizing pills to each particular user.

If you can print them on demand, you can really customize dosage, flavor, size, and texture, and really make sure it’s optimized for the person that’s taking it, whether they have a swallowing difficulty, or if it’s a child where typically their parent might need to cut the pill in half, but maybe that’s not quite as consistent in terms of dosing. So the question then becomes, “Where does this actually happen and who’s doing it? So is this something that people can do in their home, where maybe the recipe that actually gets printed is the prescription, or is it something that maybe pharmacies are going to have installed in their facilities and people go and pick these up and it’s just customized to their particular preferences?”

All right. And our next section here is about sensors and tracking. So the kind of main one that comes to mind obviously is Fitbit and activity trackers, but there are tons of uses beyond just activity tracking. So those are things like fall identification, drug adherence, checking someone’s mental status, sensory augmentation, which is like hearing aids things like that, and everything all the way to monitoring blood and vital signs. So the data that’s being collected here really has significant clinical outcomes. It can lead to earlier detection of disease and faster diagnosis, which improves people’s health faster and quicker. The total market’s expected to hit about 46 billion by 2025, so it’s a fairly large market. And one of the fastest growing segments of that market is the biosensor segment. And biosensors are things like the patch here in the bottom center image, and those are very, very small, adhere directly to the skin, and they’re typically disposable. And the anticipation is that in the future, these may actually become something that is implantable. Something that’s very, very small that can be injected subdermally, and that maybe you’re living with all the time.

And it’s interesting to think about here, how these tracking devices and sensors are really being integrated into what have traditionally been consumer goods. So this is things like clothing and accessories. There’s a strong need to optimize the design for wearability, comfort, durability, so that it holds up in washing machines, but also fashion because people really do enjoy personally expressing their own style. So things here, just as an example of how this field is evolving. Up at the top, we have a shirt that helps tracking the elderly who have dementia, of course, heart monitoring contacts that can help with glaucoma, and this ring up here in the upper image was actually just recently developed to help alert people to early warning signs that they might have COVID-19. So these are really… There’s a diverse way that they can be used and a very diverse way that they can be implemented in the market and help people understand things quicker and still express their personal style.

All right, so to summarize, additive manufacturing for food and medication is very, very early. There’s only a very small handful of companies and academic institutions that are starting to look into that. And there we’re seeing the consumerization of medical devices and the exploration of different sensing applications that’s starting to evolve more as people are starting to explore ideas of what those could be. But the hardware itself is actually fairly well understood. It’s a little bit more developed because it’s leveraging technologies that already exist.

And then the ideas of preventative care and nutrition are very well established. Those are normal parts of our society. And then on our mild to wild spectrum, in the short term, we’ll probably see wearables get smaller, but more and more sophisticated. We might see prescription foods start to be prescribed for things like allergies, where it can maybe make a significant difference. And then on the far end, maybe we see the massive adoption of food printing. Maybe that becomes the new microwave, maybe we see wearables become implantable, and maybe we see prescription diets really get integrated with medication and pharmacology and that starts to become the normal way that we consume food.

All right, in terms of key takeaways, the number one thing is really ensuring security, which is just making sure that the right person is getting the right medication and that things are tamper-proof. Convenience is also king. So it’s going to be very important to make sure that these things are easy to use and easy to understand, and that if we’re talking about wearables, that they’re consolidated into as few steps and parts as possible. For better health, really, that’s kind of the driver of what all of this is about. It’s about reducing our cases of chronic disease, reducing obesity, and really getting to better health outcomes for people. And what that might mean is that there’s a lower volume of emergency interventions and different procedures that are taking care of some of those diseases today.

We’ll also see comfort and style become increasingly important. Data analytics, of course, with all the wearables collecting different data will be key on everybody’s mind and it will be important that data is converted not only to something that’s usable, but something that consumers can understand. And then the last one, there is 24/7 monitoring, which is the thought that maybe in the future, you’re not scheduling appointments with your doctor, but instead, you’re paying for a service where you’re being monitored constantly and perhaps you’re alerted if your physician sees something that is life threatening or early signs of disease. So your interaction with your physician really starts to change.

All right, and our last one here is new frontiers. Like I mentioned at the beginning, we’ll talk about genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology. So starting with genetic engineering, it’s really grown quickly over the last decade with the advent of CRISPR and the dramatic reduction in the time and cost associated with genetic sequencing, it’s really led to an acceleration in testing and experimentation, and it’s really become so simple and cost effective that biohackers can even do this in their own garages. And what’s interesting here is that the market size is only projected to be 9 billion by 2025. So it’s really just in its infancy. It’s just at the hairy edge of starting. The genomics market is a little bit further along. It’s currently at 17 billion, 18 billion and projected to be 30 billion by 2027. And that’s companies like 23andMe that are using genetic sequencing to tell people not only their ancestry, but also they have carriers for certain genetic diseases or if they have any elements that they might be susceptible to.

And what’s interesting too is that this has a lot of strong support from the FDA. So this quote is from the FDA commissioner, “The growth of innovative research and product development in the field of gene therapy is exciting to us. These therapies, once only conceptual, are rapidly becoming therapeutic reality.” So there’s a lot of excitement, not just in the field, but at the FDA in particular. By 2025, the FDA actually expects to be reviewing and approving between 10 and 20 different gene therapies a year. So they’re expecting to see the volume of this increase. And I think there’s probably just around or just over 1,000 gene therapy studies currently underway. So there’s a lot of research and a lot of exploration in this field.

All right, and our next one here is artificial intelligence. With the rise of big data, there’s also been a rise in machine learning. There’s just massive amounts of data that are being collected that are making it increasingly possible to train more and more sophisticated AIs. Right now they’re taking on routine tasks in the healthcare field, things like benefit verification and invoicing and reporting, but more and more, they’re branching into medical services. Things like doing a diagnosis, helping develop treatment protocols, they’re being utilized by pharmaceutical companies in drug development to speed that up and make it more efficient. So there’s a lot of different potential ways that this could influence healthcare. And right now the market’s relatively small, it’s around $3 billion annually, but it’s expected to grow to about $24 billion in the next five years. So growing very, very fast. And R&D budgets and investments specifically in medical device, AI has grown, I think, six fold over the last couple of years. So a lot of money is being poured into R&D.

But even with all the excitement, it’s important to realize, even though there’s a lot of promise to AI, it’s still really important to understand that it is still very limited and it’s not great at doing many general, very broad tasks, and it’s also very susceptible to bias. So just to demonstrate that, there’s an image here of a landscape and image recognition AI has attempted to label this image with what it believes is in it, and it believes this is a herd of sheep. And it also believes that this is a herd of sheep and possibly some giraffes, and the reason is that the data set that the AI was trained on included sheep only in fields and giraffes only in fields and it doesn’t really know what the difference between a sheep or a field or a giraffe is. Which also explains why this AI thinks that these goats are dogs because it’s really only ever seen goats outside and dogs with people.

So the point here is that this really highlights that things that we take for granted as being pretty simple to do, AIs can really struggle with. It can be very difficult for them to interpret some of the differences that we’re picking up in photos, and what it’s looking at might not be things that we’re looking at at all. So as AI gets more and more developed and does roll out into healthcare fields, it’s really, really important to make sure that what it’s doing is very transparent and that its data sets are thoroughly vetted.

All right, and our last one here is nanotechnology, which of all the things we’re talking about today is probably the most future forward, but it is being used today in personalized and targeted medicine. It’s used to protect, control, and distribute the release of pharmaceuticals inside the body. But there’s a lot of exploration into the design of nanobots and nanomaterials that can really revolutionize how we think about healthcare.

So just starting at the level that we have today, we can build on platforms that we already have. So this would be things like pills and patches and needles. And you can see here these examples. This bottom image is actually a microneedle patch that can be used to deliver medication or take blood samples. So instead of one larger needle pricking you, you feel what really kind of feels like being licked by a cat. So it’s a much more pleasant experience for the patient. And then on the top here, we have a smart bandage. So nanoparticles can be added to patches with some blood clotting agents that can help close wounds faster. Alternatively, some antimicrobial agents can be used to prevent infection.

And the last example here down in the bottom, nanomaterials are being used in the applications of administrations of medications. So there’s exploration into different membranes that can release medications at different times or different locations in the body, or also help track dosage and drug adherence. And then beyond that, there’s exploration into more wild technologies like microsurgery. So here we have an example of nanoparticles that can be injected into the bloodstream and then manipulated with a magnetic field to clear plaque from the arteries. So what happens is they can move those particles in kind of a corkscrew fashion, and that will clear the plaque out mechanically, or they can modify the particles to bond to white blood cells and then reprogram those cells to eat away at the plaque. But there’s also some research into biopsy collection in eye surgery, and all these different applications would make even minimally invasive surgery-

And all these different applications would make even minimally invasive surgery seem very obsolete.

All right, so to sum that up, nano technology definitely lives very early on in the curve. It’s still kind of thought of as science fiction, but there are some institutions and some researchers kind of looking at practical ways to roll that out.

Genetic engineering is a little bit higher up. I think there’s about a dozen therapies that have been cleared by the FDA over the last couple years. There’s one that helps cure inherited blindness, and another one that helps with muscular atrophy. But most of what’s going on is still in the research phase, trying to figure out how and what can be done.

And then artificial intelligence, much higher up on the curve, is currently being rolled out in the field in a number of different settings by a number of different companies.

All right. And then we have our mile to wild spectrum on the more conservative end. We’ll probably see the FDA approve dozens of new gene therapies, but we’ll probably see bans on germline editing, which is gene editing that you could pass on traits to your offspring. We’ll probably see AI’s integrated more and more into surgical tools and instruments. And maybe we see drug delivery. Maybe we see medications become more personalized, the delivery become more customized, and maybe that kind of helps us in our endeavors to cure cancer.

And then at the very far end of the spectrum, maybe through nano technology and genetic engineering, we don’t need organ donations anymore. Maybe our surgical procedures become totally automated. Maybe those micro surgeries that I mentioned become standard. And maybe even at some point we see nanobots that ride along in our bloodstream all the time. Maybe they’re always improving our oxygen uptake, and clearing plaque and looking for infection long before we even know we’re sick.

All right. And the key takeaways there are that really these technologies, what they do is they offer cures for what have long been incurable disease. So this has opened up a new pool of patients and new possibilities for them.

There’s also a disruption of surgical procedures. More and more these technologies are leading to tailor made applications of medicine and medical practice, and they have the potential of maybe changing how we view surgery in the future. There are also some ethical dilemmas associated with all of these technologies. Of course, genetic engineering has a whole host of challenges specifically with germline editing. But also nano technology, how do you get such small particles out of a body? How do you control where they go? Does your DNA become IP? So there’s a whole host of questions that need to be worked through there.

And then on the bottom we have algorithm development. So we’ll probably see algorithms become more and more personalized to each individual patient, but there’s questions there about how to manage data and who owns the data, and especially with HIPAA compliance and confidentiality.

Another challenge is onboarding specialists. So these technologies are kind of outside the scope of what OEMs are traditionally doing today, so it might require the hiring of more chemists, or software engineers, or nano technologists.

And then the last point here is that medicine is really becoming more and more personalized and more and more customized, and that seems to be the trend moving forward.

All right. So to sum it all up, foresight is good. Failing to plan is planning to fail, so it’s definitely something that should be integrated into business practices. We shared two different methods for looking at things in the future. One is the S curve and the other is the mile to wild feature spectrum. And then we talked about three mega trends in health care, remote medicine, preventative care and new treatment frontiers, and how those are being researched and adopted by the market, and some of the challenges associated with rolling those out.

John Bernero:

Great, Heather. That’s some exciting stuff. Be interesting seeing what happens here in the future. So that actually concludes our presentation portion of today’s webinar. I just want to remind everyone to please go ahead and type in your questions into the question section of the webinar. While that’s happening, I do want to point you out to our insights section, which is within our website, If you go to the insights tab, you’ll actually find information about upcoming webinars, as well as articles that we publish regularly in our area expertise. Feel free to go ahead and sign up on the right side and they’ll get them to your email. Okay. Well it looks like we have a couple questions that already came in. So the first one here, Heather, is, are there any other technologies or trends influencing healthcare that maybe you didn’t talk about today?

Heather Benoit:

Certainly there are. We covered a lot of trends, but there are many others to consider, such as AR and VR,  sustainability, the rise of influence from the East, blockchain, digital nativism. There’s a whole host of different trends that are kind of out today. Plus also, we should always be scanning and looking for new things that are kind of just coming into the light. Of those, I would say AR and VR, and sustainability, those two probably have the most immediate significant impact on the design of medical devices coming into the next couple of years.

John Bernero:

Great. So this other question came in here. It says, what barriers are preventing the adoption of these technologies?

Heather Benoit:

For many of these technologies, the greatest barriers are probably government regulation, a limitation of resources, both financial and personnel. And then really just, I would say the limited practice of foresight in business today. I think there’s a lot of companies that would say, maybe these are kind of far out and they’re not happening as fast as they think, but I think they’re kind of here today. These are trends that are happening today, these aren’t projections of the future. There are certainly massive regulatory and technological challenges to overcome, and it can be compelling to kind of create the narrative and the business case for something that seems like it’s very far out. But I think, like I said, these things are happening today, so companies that are waiting are going to be kind of caught in that reactive part of the curve. Other significant barriers are probably security and safety. Anything with logistics or software based trends, clearly there’s a risk of hacking and data theft, so we need to make sure that systems are secure and reliable, and that things are safe and patients can trust what’s being put out there.

John Bernero:

Great. So the question came in here, it says, are there any other strategic foresight methods or tools that you might use?

Heather Benoit:

Yes. There are a number of other methods and tools in the foresight bucket. We’ve really only scratched the surface. And I won’t go into specifics, but some of the other tools are things like backcasting and horizon scanning, that future’s cone that I mentioned. So there’s just a lot of different methodologies. We are planning on doing another webinar in the future about strategic foresight specifically, so maybe keep an eye out for that.

John Bernero:

Great. And this other question’s similar to the other one here, which was, and maybe can touch a little bit based upon it is, what is your trend research process?

Heather Benoit:

That’s a great question. Mostly it’s a lot of reading. It’s kind of collecting information from academic journals, research institutions, press releases from companies, really anything you can get your hands on that kind of describes what companies are doing, or what people are thinking, or where things might be headed. So it’s really just a lot of digging around and trying to understand what’s out there, and making sure that you’re getting information from multiple sources. And then after that, it’s really a process of kind of taking what you’ve learned and trying to put it in buckets that make sense, and kind of synthesize that information into higher level trends so you can kind of understand the impact of those things moving forward and how different technologies will merge together, or maybe demerge to create new trends in the future.

John Bernero:

Great. I remember seeing you and the team in the back going through all this process too, so it’s exciting how you pull all these different pieces of information and gathered some thoughts, processes from others as well. All right, this next one here, and I think it’s related in what we’re dealing with here today, and you kind of touched on this a little bit, but how might the post COVID reality impact some of these trends?

Heather Benoit:

Yeah. So like I mentioned earlier, telemedicine is just kind of gone bananas, it’s growing exponentially due to COVID. But beyond that, drones have actually been a big winner post COVID. So, I mentioned that company Zipline that has been operating in Africa, and they’ve actually been working with some government agencies in the United States to try to get some logistic services based in the United States. But because of COVID-19, they actually received emergency clearance to start delivering PPE in two hospitals in North Carolina. And then I believe UPS and CVS partnered just last month to start delivering prescription medications to retirement community in Florida. So both of those were spurred by social distancing measures and the need to keep people safe during this kind of crazy time. And even beyond that, I would say that I think systems that support remote services are bound to see an increase in interest. So that would include products that are designed for use in the home, things for at-home testing, and even robotics to some extent. So I think we’ll probably see all of those be bolstered in addition.

John Bernero:

Great. So those are all the questions we’ve gotten here so far today. I do want to thank everyone for tuning in and taking part of today’s webinar. Again, if you’re interested in checking out future events that we have going on, please go to our insights section of our website. We will be posting a recording of this webinar also, so in case you happened to miss anything today or if you want to share that also with some of your colleagues, look out for that email coming up here within the next week or so. Again, thanks again, Heather, for a great presentation and inspiring us in what’s coming. And we’ll go ahead and conclude this webinar, and thank you again for your time and talk to you next time.