MEDICA 2019: Wearables, Digital Twins, and AI in Healthcare

MEDICA, one of the world’s largest trade fairs for medical technology and equipment, is on our annual calendar, and 2019 was no exception. At the end of November, Auriga’s experts headed to Dusseldorf, Germany, to explore the healthcare market of tomorrow live. MEDICA 2019 attracted over 120,000 visitors from 176 countries. Roughly 5,600 exhibitors, including information technology and medical technology companies, presented a wide range of innovative healthcare solutions.

In 2019, MEDICA featured digital health as a hot trend promising to close the gap between patients and doctors in the near future. Healthcare is rapidly “going digital.” Statista expects the global digital health market to reach 206 billion USD by 2020, driven particularly by mobile and wireless technologies. In Europe, however, the growing digital health market faces several challenges: a shortage of physicians, lack of personalized medicine, and rapidly increasing ageing population.

Medical (Clinical)-Grade Wearables

Most medical wearables are certified class II medical devices that monitor such clinical-grade parameters as respiration activity, pulse, sleep, etc. They help diagnose and treat asthma, cardiac disorders, sleeping and hearing problems, Parkinson’s disease, neurological disorders, and so on. A clinical-grade wearable is more than a personal fitness tracker: it is connected to a digital platform integrated with the hospital network, insurance system, and national healthcare system, if possible. Such wearables have good predictive capabilities and measure vital signs accurately enough to diagnose early signs of diseases and monitor their progress.

The wearable medical device market is on the rise, and this trend is reflected in Auriga’s healthcare projects. Last year, Auriga designed and developed a new version of remote, real-time biometric monitoring including, but not limited to, a lung health and medication adherence service management system, HIPAA-compliant web portal, and native Android application. The solution developed in accordance with ISO 13485 enables personalized healthcare, easy medication adherence, and care plan compliance monitoring.

Digital Twins and Simulators in Healthcare

Although Gartner listed digital twins among the emerging technology trends back in 2018, many people still have only a very vague idea of what a digital twin is. In a nutshell, a digital twin is a fully featured virtual replica of a physical object or service and its processes. In the healthcare industry, digital twins can simulate:

  • patients’ organs – to prevent unnecessary operations, the intake of contraindicated medicines, or medications from being taken incorrectly;
  • medical devices – to increase their reliability; and
  • whole hospital systems – to create a safer environment.

There is a significant difference between simulators and digital twins. We at Auriga widely use simulators of medical equipment to speed up the development and testing process. In a recent project, for instance, Auriga developed a fully functional simulation system to serve as the evaluation platform for new features development for syringe and large-volume infusion pumps. The solution helped test new features on the fly and enabled the Customer to cut development costs significantly and reduce time-to-market for their new product.

Simulators may also be used for medical personnel training purposes. Thus, a leading provider of medical devices for circulatory support asked Auriga to develop a new heart pump simulation app to replace an outdated one. The developed app simulates differential pressure (DP), LVP, EDP, cardiac output (CO), cardiac power output (CPO), native CO (NCO) waveforms, and pump position.

However, while simulators rely on historical data and, therefore, have a limited predictive function, digital twins may show how the object will behave in the future, considering all real-life conditions. When we connect a medical device model to a model of a human body to study how the device will function in its natural environment, the system turns into a digital twin.

Healthcare AI and Analytics

MEDICA featured many AI-based trends that might appear to be science fiction if they were not just around the corner. One of them is software-defined medical imaging allowing the industry to shift from simply storing images in the cloud to collecting and using them in diagnostics. Another hot trend is simulation for healthcare education enabling the visualization of health and admin data for decision-making, early detection of critical situations, and reduction of workload for nursing and hospital staff.

Healthcare data analytics was of special interest to Auriga, given our experience in collecting and analyzing patient data from medical wearables and sensors. In one of our projects, Auriga developed an arrhythmia detection service for the distributed monitoring and processing of data generated by wearable ECG Holter devices. An in-depth statistical analysis of the huge amount of cardiac data coming from the wearables, combined with information about external factors such as atmospheric pressure, enables the continuous monitoring of hundreds of thousands of patients simultaneously and makes the system comparable to real-time treatment.

As AI penetrates all aspects of healthcare, market leaders are trying to come up with AI strategies and establish international standards for metrics and evaluations, initiate a more transparent decision-making process, and eliminate potential bias in treatment planning.

Summing Up

As healthcare evolves at a rapid pace, it is important to keep up with medical innovations. MEDICA helps us ensure that we are up to date on the newest technologies and best practices in the industry. In close cooperation with the Engineering and Business Development Departments, we use these insights to plan new initiatives at Auriga and better respond to our customers’ needs. We look forward to visiting MEDICA again next year. See you in 2020!