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From magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound scanning to the future of prosthetics promise...
From magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound scanning to the future of prosthetics promised by the emerging technology of soft robotics, innovations in medical technology have helped people across the globe to live longer, healthier lives.
Often, there can be some confusion around the terminology used in the life sciences sector, particularly as all of these developments are helping to spearhead health advances in many areas of our lives.
With much of the emerging technology in healthcare breaking new ground, it’s no surprise that distinguishing between medtech, health-tech, and biotech can require some research.
In this article, we’ll explore what medical technology is, going into some of the most recognisable—and most cutting-edge—tools, equipment and devices before exploring how the field of technology is helping to drive health advances and achieve equality in healthcare provision. We’ll also look at the future of medical technology, discuss the rise of robotics in healthcare, and offer advice for those looking to begin or transition into a career in the medical technology field.
Medical technology is concerned with designing and manufacturing medical instrumentation and devices, typically those found in the hospital environment.
Unlike the wearables and digital health tools that professionals working in the health-tech field are focused on, or the drugs and genetic screening techniques biotechnicians develop, medical technology is responsible for the recognisable devices that enable healthcare experts to diagnose and treat illness and injury. These innovations give individuals a higher quality of life, from imaging equipment such as MRI or CT scanners to prosthetic limbs.
Engineers and technologists are creating ground-breaking and life-saving devices and medical instrumentation each day, such as:
With artificial intelligence and machine learning becoming ever-more powerful, emerging technology in healthcare can be designed and manufactured more rapidly and at much smaller sizes, allowing for less invasive procedures. As a result, robotics in healthcare is helping to streamline treatment and procedures while improving safety and patient outcomes.
In addition, medical technology in mental healthcare allows people to fight treatment-resistant depression and anxiety, whilst organisations such as EndeavourRx are developing immersive, video game-based therapeutics to assist children with ADHD in building attention function.
In short, medical technologists are focused on creating machines, implants, and tools to diagnose, treat or prevent diseases and other conditions.
Medical technology is enabling people to live longer, healthier and happier lives. As a result of the devices that engineers in the medical technology field have built, around five years was added to the average life expectancy of American adults. From 1980 to the present, the number of days spent in the hospital by patients has decreased by 60%, enabling individuals to get back to work and freeing up space in healthcare environments through improvements to efficiency and productivity.
At the same time, medical technology is empowering health advances concerning the impact of so-called “health deserts”. These health deserts are located across the world and generally are regions or areas where segments of the population will struggle to access healthcare services. These can be in rural and remote areas or the heart of some of the busiest cities on Earth—typically disadvantaging ethnic minorities and the working class more than others.
With the development of advanced medical instrumentation and devices, medical technology enables healthcare practitioners to treat illnesses more quickly. The government of the United Kingdom has recognised this, awarding £16 million in funding in early March 2023, supporting nine healthcare technologies which leverage artificial intelligence to rapidly diagnose cancer, identify women at high risk of giving birth prematurely, and help those with rare diseases.
Advances in telemedicine and robotics will allow surgeries to be conducted via the Internet of Things (IoT) and patients to be monitored remotely—thereby freeing up beds and increasing on-site staff productivity—whilst developments in machine learning and artificial intelligence will allow doctors to predict illnesses and prepare for the future healthcare needs of the communities they serve. Geographical distance will matter less as a result of these innovative technologies.
Medical technology can bridge the gap between increased demand for services and limited public healthcare budgets, particularly as the pace of innovation increases within the sector, helping to make treatment more inclusive and tailored.
The future of medical technology is bright due to the emerging capabilities of robotics in healthcare. From the innovations in soft robotics—a cutting-edge field in which engineers are taking cues from the plant world to design prostheses which allow for more fine-grained limb control—to the surgical assistance provided by robotic arms, robots are being employed across the surgical and clinical environment to enhance short and long-term patient care.
Automation within the lab is enabling phlebotomists to test a greater number of samples than previously was possible, and continued efforts to develop new, artificially intelligent support for lab workers means that highly repetitive tasks can now be handled by machines, enabling these experts to focus on the research and development of new treatments.
In a post-COVID-19 world, it’s difficult not to be conscious of infection control, and robotics are helping to reduce risk in this environment too. Robotic devices can clean operating theatres, clinical areas and patients’ rooms, assisting in reducing the likelihood that highly transmissible diseases will be spread around the hospital and potentially affect those with weakened immune systems. With the reduction of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) a primary concern of healthcare leaders, autonomous mobile robots are helping to provide high-quality care for patients.
As artificial intelligence and machine learning come into their own, innovative medical instrumentation enables healthcare practitioners to gather more patient information, and parsing through vast data sets is becoming easier by the day—helping provide widespread treatment in deprived areas.
With the minimisation of robotic devices and the development of new nanotechnological equipment, surgeries can be conducted in an increasingly non-invasive manner. Inserted through a small incision, this technology allows surgeons to perform procedures remotely, reducing the risk of infection and the long healing times associated with open surgery.
Physiotherapists are also benefiting from this emerging technology in healthcare, with modular robotics such as exoskeletons and prostheses helping in the rehabilitation efforts that often follow traumatic brain injuries or strokes. Likewise, social or “friendly” robots will be able to provide much-needed social interaction for patients on long-term hospital stays, helping to improve well-being and reduce the workloads of care staff.
Working in the people-centric field of medical technology typically requires candidates to possess a degree in an associated technical area such as mechanical, biomedical or electrical engineering or a scientific field such as biology or medicine. Many candidates will also have advanced degrees at the postgraduate level, focusing on a specific area of research within medical technology, such as nanotechnology or imaging.
Scientists and engineers in the UK can apply for the NHS’s Scientist Training Programme (STP), a fixed-term programme which pays a salary over the course of three years. This programme focuses on workplace-based training with a specialisation in the final year of study and awards a postgraduate-level qualification.
Ambition and passion go a long way within the field and are essential—alongside proven work experience—for those looking to advance to more senior positions, and many high-performing, entrepreneurial specialists go on to work as consultants within the sector.
The average salary for an engineer or scientist working in the medical technology field begins at around £35,000 in the UK, whilst candidates in the US will earn a higher figure of around $74,000. With seniority, these salaries could increase to almost £50,000 annually in the UK and $100,000 annually in the US.
There are several options for those interested in working in the private healthcare sector. From the dynamic and fast-paced environment of the start-up that has just secured venture capital funding to established medical technology giants, candidates who appreciate all kinds of working environments can find a place to thrive and advance in their careers.
Several medical technology organisations provide lucrative opportunities for graduates and experienced professionals, with businesses such as Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson MedTech and Siemens Healthineers all achieving revenues of over $20 billion in 2022.
At Meet Recruitment, our team of medical technology consultants are passionate about supporting talented candidates to enter amazing careers with amazing companies. We source professionals that empower the future of global health, from medical technology to pharmaceuticals and bioengineering. Our presence in the UK, EU and USA allows us to have the global reach to offer exciting roles across the sector. Contact us to discuss your professional experience and requirements.