The health-technology industry is wrapping up a marquee year.
Start-ups in the space got record levels of funding from venture capitalists, and the second half of the year featured some notable acquisitions, including ResMed’s $225 million purchase of Propeller Health this month.
Large technology companies such as Apple and Amazon explored opportunities to get their products into the medical sector, and they made some important hires along those lines. In response, traditional health-care companies, including pharmaceutical makers and health plans, forged their own partnerships with tech developers to help them modernize their offerings and improve the consumer experience.
That’s all in the rearview mirror now. What’s likely to happen in the year ahead?
CNBC asked a dozen experts from across the health-care industry for their predictions. Here are their top picks:
Wearables will track blood pressure
In 2018, the Apple Watch introduced an electrocardiogram to monitor a user’s heart rhythm and look for potential irregularities, including a type of arrhythmia known as atrial fibrillation. The company got clearance from regulators for the new ECG feature.
These recent additions to the Apple Watch “will start a serious health feature arms race for all the makers of wearables,” said David Albert, a cardiologist and the co-founder of AliveCor, a wearables company that specializes in heart health. In other words, companies such as Samsung and Alphabet will likely have to step up with breakthroughs of their own.
And all that might lead to some major innovation in 2019 that would impact millions of people. One might be for a company to figure out a way to track blood pressure, or a proxy for it, without a cuff, suggests Walter De Brouwer, CEO of a health software start-up called Doc.Ai. De Brouwer previously worked on biomedical sensor technology. Many companies have failed to get a product like this to market, but De Brouwer said that “now is the ideal time.” A variety of factors will make it possible in 2019, he said, including the increasing openness of regulators to new ideas, coupled with some recent improvements in sensors and algorithm-based technology.
If a company such as Apple does that, he says, they’ll come into the following year “owning the new vital signs of the twenty-first century.”