C-suiters: Keep an eye on these technologies in 2017

surgical robotics
ECRI has released its annual list of technologies that healthcare leaders should watch.

From Pepper, the emotional interactive robot, to the new da Vinci Xi Integrated Table Motion to pipeline vaccines, ECRI Institute highlights 10 healthcare technologies C-suiters should keep an eye on in 2017.

The organization's annual watch list outlines technologies that hospital leaders should bring into their hospitals—and which ones to keep out. But separating the facts from the hype isn't easy, they note.

Pepper, for example, might be a pass thanks to its hefty price tag. But other emerging technologies, such as vaccines for chronic conditions such as diabetes, hold promise.  

Here's the list of 10 technologies and research areas that ECRI says are poised to affect care delivery over the next 12 to 18 months:

Liquid biopsies: More than 40 companies and labs now offer these genetic tests that use blood or urine, rather than biopsied tissue, to identify genetic variants and mutations. One clinical researcher from Massachusetts General Hospital noted these tests are “multiplying like rabbits” and urged caution in using them.

Opioid addiction or relapse prediction: A couple of lab tests have emerged to find genetic variants believed to be associated with addiction, but critics are skeptical. Leaders should also keep an eye on research into biosensors and new medications.

Abdominal surgery improvements: Some major research universities are working on initiatives that add a web-based risk-assessment algorithm and interactive patient coaching in order to improve outcomes and cut costs of abdominal surgery.

Long-term planning: Healthcare leaders should scan the horizon for important and disruptive new technology developments and care processes to revisit and refresh long-term planning efforts. 

LED infection control: New and highly effective technologies emit light in the “deep UV” range and can be used as a disinfectant on myriad surfaces.

Robotic artificial intelligence: Two Belgian hospitals use the Pepper robot to support reception staff, but its programming comes at a hefty price.

Robotic surgery tables: This table communicates with the da Vinci system’s robotic arms to reduce time required for repositioning.

New endoscopy technique: Using a near-infrared imaging technique, indocyanine green imaging enables physicians to visualize malignant tissue that is undetectable under conventional white light.

Crohn’s disease treatments: Immunotherapy and stem cell treatments look promising, though approval is likely one or two years away.

Vaccines for Type 1 diabetes: Keep an eye out for both preventative and therapeutic versions.

New technologies come and go, but healthcare leaders' technology decisions must be tethered to their patients' needs "while keeping an eye trained on evidence-based research," says Diane Robertson, director of health technology assessment information service at ECRI Institute.