Medtech’s Crystal Ball: AI set to save millions of lives

The dictum prevention is better than cure has become somewhat of an adage repeated again and again across the medical industry – and for good reason.

With global life expectancies rising steadily over the span of the last many years, governments are often left with the somewhat arduous yet vital task of provisioning for ageing populations of tomorrow. Taking Singapore as an example, the number of seniors aged 65 years and above will almost double to over 900,000 by 2030. It is therefore imperative that medical science (and the technology that drives it) advances in tandem with growing populations.

We went beyond the bells and whistles that come with the latest word with a tech suffix to garner attention and explored what advancements mean for the industry moving forward. Speaking at length with Dr. Helen Kim, General Manager of our very own member C&R Healthcare Global(C&R), our findings were somewhat humbling. What would have been dismissed as conjecture a decade ago is now becoming a reality, with medtech proving to be a huge boon in the early detection and prevention of diseases.

Early dementia detection a reality

Take the broad spectrum of mental health as one example. Related issues cost developed nations hundreds-of-billions of dollars annually, with reports finding that the cost in North America alone is upwards of USD 250 billion.

Companies such as imediSync, Inc. have created a technology that predicts and classifies various neuropsychiatric related disorders such as dementia, ADHD, autism, depression and traumatic brain injury. Mild cognitive impairment (a major precursor to dementia) for example, is diagnosed and evaluated at an early stage using a machine-learning algorithm. This is exponentially faster than the current testing methods that involve cognitive assessments, blood tests and brain scans that are often only administered after a patient shows signs of mental impairment.

On an individual level, the major advantage of this form of diagnosis comes with the ability to prevent these illnesses at an early stage. Dementia is diagnosed using the patient’s EEG and visualised using brain mapping with a test that takes 10 minutes to process. The days where patients went through a gruelling series of tests to determine such illnesses seem to be coming to an end.

Patients able to pre-empt cancer probability

Illnesses such as cancer also have the medtech industry busy creating early detection solutions. Bioinfra Life Science Inc. has created an early multi-cancer screening, iFinder, using a simple blood sample to detect 8 major cancers as early as Stage 1 and 8 chronic conditions. The cutting-edge technology leverages a proprietary machine-learning algorithm with data from over 30,000 tests thus far. iFinder’s dataset is growing continually through commercially available testing in over 300 hospitals in Korea.

Breakthrough technology like iFinder will revolutionise the healthcare industry through easy, cost-effective monitoring — increasing survivability and treatment options for patients exponentially.

Breakthrough technology like this also promises to be completely safe, convenient, reliable as well as time-efficient with the entire evaluation process being carried out through one single blood test. Such technology will also afford the masses with access to independent testing away from traditional medical institutions, shaping the future of how the industry will evolve.

The mind can only wonder how far we will be in terms of medtech advancements over the course of the next several years. Helen put it aptly, “The fact that such technology exists puts us in an extremely advantageous position compared to where we were even 2 years ago. Who would have thought that all this would be possible with a simple blood test or scan? It will take a mixture of society’s support together with governmental participation to make all this available to the masses.”