The role of medical technology in the 4th Industrial Revolution

  • Posted on 04.03.2016

The role of medical technology in the 4th Industrial Revolution


Serge Bernasconi

Chief Executive Officer, MedTech Europe


Digital technologies have made our lives move faster, easier and be more connected. And in the realm of healthcare, we have seen this rapid advancement on how we diagnose, treat and cure patients.

The healthcare sector is transforming and evolving fast thanks to the advent of technologies. And our sector, the medical technology sector, is at the core of this transformation.

The new revolution

At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, they heralded this rapid evolution as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

According to German Economist Klaus Schwab, we are on the verge of a fourth industrial revolution that will radically change the way we work and live.

In his paper, he summarized that the First Industrial Revolution used steam-powered and mechanics to increase production. The Second Industrial Revolution brought electricity and mass-production processes. The Third Industrial Revolution gave the “digitalization of technology”. And he claimed that now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, and will bring “fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres”.

The big question remains: How will this revolution answer the pressing challenges we have today in healthcare?

All stakeholders have a part to play. But I see the medical technology sector playing a pivotal role in the meeting the challenges of today and of the future.

A new world with a continuously growing population

By 2050, it has been estimated that the population over the age of 60 will reach nearly two billion. The challenge comes in both ways – First is how to provide care to a larger population and also on how to address conditions associated with aging such as reduction in mobility, the decline in visual and auditory acuity, and changes in cognitive processes.

Accessing services locally and using resources efficiently will become increasingly important in order to meet this demand. Medical technologies, such as telemedicine will make it easier and more efficient for patients to monitor their health data and reduce their dependence to hospitals. This means better treatment and lower costs.

At the same time, robotics and drones can make it easier to support aging individuals in receiving caregiving services and assisting in monitoring and medicine intake.

Innovation in healthcare

The medical technology sector will also lead the path for our healthcare practices to reach the promises of this new industrial revolution.

The advancements in personalised healthcare will trigger opportunities for developing faster and more effective treatments. Therefore, advancements in companion diagnostics will be crucial in ensuring that these devices will accurately determine the efficacy of a treatment.

The convergence of consumer products like mobile phones and medical technology is also on the rise. Mobile health applications can monitor and provide direct provision of care to patients. At the same time, innovations in mHealth can help bring healthcare access across the world, improve clinical data gathering and improve the delivery of healthcare information.

And the innovation doesn’t stop there. Nanotechnology, or the ability to manipulate atoms and molecules, has the potential to vastly improve diagnosis and treatment.  Recently, MIT researchers were able to use nanotubes that help heart disease patients. At the same time, nanotechnology is being used to detect new viruses.

Technological developments are happening at every corner. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The speed that innovation has been happening is something that we need to be aware and be able to adjust.

But it is not up to innovation alone that will ensure that it will thrive. A healthy regulatory environment, a business ecosystem supporting SMEs and a society that fosters creativity will all be crucial.

I am excited to say that the future for the healthcare industry is bright. It remains to be in our duty, however, to ensure that we invest in adapting to this new era. Both investing in innovation and maintaining a forward-looking mind-set will be important in ensuring that our industry will continue to thrive.


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