A BIT CLOUDY Digital health, diagnostics and point-of-care biosensor technology

Blood cells are starting to read like code, as the medical world gets wired up to wireless technology. Dr Luyun Jiang, IDTechEx, discusses a recent study on biomedical diagnostics and how the digital is being integrated into the diagnostic process


e are many more and we will live longer. The global population will grow to 8.5 billion by 2030, of which 1.4 billion will be aged over 60. The increasing financial burden for the public health system, rising cost for patients and new global challenges coming from infectious and chronic diseases, are driving a profound transformation in health care. This represents a market of more than $8 trillion today. And, as part of this step forward, biomedical diagnostics are moving towards predictive, personalised, preventive and participatory healthcare (figure 1). The market is seeking new diagnostic solutions which are faster, cheaper and more accessible than traditional methods. It is gradually moving towards in-vitro diagnostics and point-of-care biosensors (POC), where the diagnosis can be performed closer to the patients, in a short time, at a low cost. Much effort has been made to miniaturise large diagnostic equipment into portable devices, automating the testing process to reduce the sample-to-answer time to within 60 min. Lab-on-a-chip is a method that simplifies the testing steps, automates the process and enables the miniaturisation of biomedical devices. How to obtain comparable sensitivity and accuracy in such small POC devices is one of the key challenges. Many current innovations have focused on advanced materials to enhance detection sensitivity, such as carbon nanotubes or quantum dot. Another interesting trend for POC biosensors is to integrate connectivity to collect data, using advanced algorithms (such as machine


learning or artificial intelligence) to interpret the data and then provide extra information to customers. Molecular diagnostics (MDx) is a golden path to personalised health care, precision medicine and predictive health care: its core cause is to extract and detect biological markers in the genome (DNA and RNA) and proteome (proteins), a significant factor when one considers that, ever since the DNA double-helix structure was uncovered in 1953, linking genetic information to medical conditions has stood as one of the core developments in this particular field of medical treatment. MDx can also assess the probability of individuals developing severe diseases, and predicting the response of patients to certain drugs. We see a large wave of MDx devices have rushed into the market since 2017, with more to come in 2019: large biotech companies’ R&D priorities are shifting toward MDx.

Another important trend is digital health, which encapsulates a wide variety of technologies and services that, together, enable the accumulation of valuable health-related data from individuals. The data can then be analysed, and the resulting information is used to offer healthcare technologies and services that lead to improved outcomes. Digital health is an umbrella for wide applications, including remote patient monitoring (RPM), mobile health (mHealth), Telehealth, Telemedicine, health IT, digital therapeutics and more. There are a number of enabling

technologies for digital health. These include faster and safer mobile telecommunications from 5G, devices being connected through either local or long-range connections, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) for data analysis, and virtual, augmented and mixed reality (VR, AR and MR) to allow information to be displayed and replayed in an easy and interactive format.

Fig 1: the cycle for the ideal healthcare scenario

Digital health is starting to gain awareness and market traction. Investments have risen dramatically since 2014, and the total investment in 2018 was around $14 billion. IT giants such as Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, Facebook and Microsoft, are all entering into the digital health market. They aim to generate or enable actionable digital health data for hundreds of millions of users. The new report “biomedical diagnostics at point-of-care” by IDTechEx gives a comprehensive study of the current available solutions on the market, as well as a detailed analysis of the future tendency, development and forecast in ten years. Consider it a guide to understanding how new biomedical technologies will benefit the health care system in the society.


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