Trends for The Future of MedTech: Insights from WGSN's Futures Summit, Melbourne

Note: This event and article was written in 2017. We are extremely grateful to WGSN for the insights and opportunity to attend, and hope you find it useful.

We’re fascinated by trends from diverse industries, and how they impact healthcare. Patients and medical professionals alike are also consumers, and as we all grow more empowered through tech, we’ll find more trends cross-pollinating from healthcare to other industries. Similarly, it’s fun making predictions and seeing how they fare. 

We were delighted to attend WGSN’s Futures Summit in Melbourne and learn about their work. WGSN are the world’s leading body for trend prediction and analysis in areas such as fashion, design, activewear and textiles. They crunch data through curated studies across the world, helping brands create products that better serve the world’s consumers. 

If you’re planning your next app, wearable, social enterprise or public health innovation, or even considering investing, here are some insights we picked up (and which are coming to fruition as we speak!.

1) The world has shifted from the Experience Economy to the Meaning Economy

Lorna Hall, Head of WGSN Insight, described how we’re shifting to the Meaning Economy, where consumers’ ideal products are selected based on depth of emotion and sense of purpose, rather than the pure functionality or entertainment of previous generations of goods.   

This is a reaction to geopolitical instability combined with the growing awareness of tech’s ability to both engage with and isolate users, bringing out more loneliness, stress, and symptoms of mental illness. Meaning is also conveyed through the rise of the sharing economy.

In a practical sense, we see this through products being created not just for entertainment, but for the nurture and care it brings the user beyond immediate experience. Perhaps it’s a reflection of our connected generation, where we’re used to linking with strangers across the world after a tragedy. “(We have) a need for more products that care for us,” explained Ms Hall, and indeed we’re starting to see care being communicated through the language and design of medtech websites, along with the pleasing design of activity trackers and mobile apps. An interesting example was e-skin, printing electrodes onto tattoo paper, creating a simple wearable that can change the volume on your phone, for example, and potentially other functions (we’re imagining being able to trace your ECG through smart wireless electrodes one day!). Meditation and mindfulness apps, some with gamification, are also increasingly part of the Meaning Economy.

2) Experience Design will incorporate Personalisation as part of the Meaning Economy

“There is opportunity in reading emotion,” said Gemma Riberti, the Senior Editor of WGSN’s Design and Product Development division. If you can customise your handbag’s initials or even change the colour of your future car according to your mood on the day, you will be able to curate your own experience in healthcare.

Personalisation also goes beyond reading emotion. Activity trackers and consumer-grade wearable biosensors are evolving to give health reminders when data points (such as high blood pressure) are detected. Consumer-grade genetic testing kits are also gaining popularity as part of the personalisation trend. Additionally, as part of her Wellness presentation, Greer Hughes, Consultant Director of WGSN Mindset APAC predicted the rise of startups based on our increasing understanding of the gut microbiome’s potential effects on physical health and wellbeing. The ethics of generalising test results from “personalised” DNA kits to fit a wide range of customers is an issue to consider when weighing up the benefits of such products, and it’s worth remembering that the Therapeutic Goods Administration and other official bodies help to regulate medical grade versus consumer grade products and devices. (There are also jobs for doctors interested in being part of the TGA approvals process!)

3) The Maker Movement and acknowledging the links between Creativity and STEM produce more healthcare solutions designed by non-healthcare professionals.

We love cognitive diversity, and clearly, WGSN does too. Monash University design student Nathan Huo won the WGSN and Artsthread award, with his app Mindcare storing and retrieving memories (photos and other media) for people affected by dementia. Inspired by his family’s own personal experience through dementia, Nathan also included augmented-reality gaming within the app, serving as a fun and useful memory aid for dementia sufferers that family can enjoy using as well. Collaboration with non-medical creatives will be on the rise as hackathons, co-working spaces and job mobility increase around the world, and we hope events and blogs (like ours :) ) help promote that sense of diverse thinking and wonder. Imagine when design becomes a key part of medical education!

4) People will either fully embrace wellness products or shun them completely

Greer Hughes, Consultant Director of WGSN Mindset APAC, took the audience on a timeline tour of the wellness industry’s growth. Currently, her consensus is that in 2018, people will either fully embrace wellness, or experience an “absolute backlash” towards it. The saturation of news stories and social media posts about superfoods, alternative therapies and wellness retreats likely contributes to this. This poses an opportunity (as ever) for medical practitioners to learn and understand the sentiments behind embracing wellness fads: the fear of the unknown, as a patient; and thus the need to empower oneself and take charge of one’s health, as a consumer. Non-medical consumers clearly want to understand the science behind health trends; it’s when an “us versus them” approach can be permanently harmful to the doctor-patient relationship.

If clinicians take charge by forming medically-sound, evidence-backed wellness apps and products, for example, mindfulness-training apps, then consumers will have more medically-approved choices available. Asking the patient/consumer what they want as a part of human-centred design is a great method to produce multi-user integrated apps such as CancerAid and telehealth platforms such as Lysn

5) Work cultures are becoming more inclusive and collaborative

Wellbeing at work is transforming employment patterns and work environments around the world. We feel this as a response to higher burnout and stress rates at work; with recent studies across the globe showing a higher number of workers taking sick leave in numerous industries, and the effects of overwork on organisational productivity. Additionally, burnout has been linked to loneliness at work. The growth of coworking spaces and shared work communities such as WeWork will help companies innovate, not only through the value exchanged when a small startup shares office space with Facebook or Hewlett Packard; but also through flexible working policies, and a greater understanding of what drives workplace retention: a sense of purpose (hello, meaning economy!). WeWork Australia’s General Manager, Balder Tol (who was Airbnb Australia’s first employee!) shared the benefits of workplace collaboration, and WeWork’s vision for Australia as it continues to roll out across the globe and acquire other companies such as coding academy Flatiron School. Cognitive diversity is acknowledged when teams share resources across organisations, and build workforces based on diverse educational and cultural backgrounds rather than being of similar skillset and training.

We’re seeing this in medicine as well. Never before has there been so much focus on doctor and clinician wellbeing, and clinicians’ mental health. Creating positive workplace cultures in hospitals and clinics, especially in the fast-paced Acute Medicine world, will help doctors and other healthcare workers feel valued, even through stressful times. Websites like ours (we hope!) help to shed light on the true meaning of being a clinician in the 21st century; the struggles, the highs and lows, the uncertainties, and the humanity and strength that grows from these experiences. It’s incredible seeing how more doctors are feeling comfortable blogging and sharing their experiences, to help bring positive change across the world. We suggest following some of these websites: Dr Eric Levi; Doc2Doc; and no doubt many others around the world.

6) The future of mobility and smart cars in healthcare

Nissan Australia’s Managing Director, Stephen Lester gave an inspiring talk about Nissan’s vision that helped us think about the future of mobility in healthcare. Autonomous driverless cars will help ferry time-critical goods such as blood products and organ donations from one place to another. And how about the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) on a car’s function, perhaps being able to monitor a passenger’s medical devices and biometrics while on the go?

7) As more of Facebook’s VR and AR functions are released, new and existing startups will pivot to include these in their products and marketing strategies.

Facebook’s APAC Head of Tech and Telecom Strategy Jason Juma-Ross gave attendees a sneak peek at some of Facebook’s and Hololens’ innovations, due for rollout in 2018, including augmented reality integrated into the News Feed. We’ve seen VR headsets being adopted by the mass market, and Facebook creating VR Spaces and developing its Messenger and Live capabilities. Facebook Messenger is already being used by chatbots to help triage and support users facing mental health problems. Imagine how AR will be able to enhance that communication.

Further Reflections: Cybersecurity and Ethics

We all know that AI, augmented reality and VR will mature and become more widely adopted by consumers. Security is the concern as users increasingly want more, now, and connected devices gradually outnumber consumers in 2018, with businesses scrambling to please customers as fast as they can. If IoT devices like smart fridges or Amazon Alexa can be hacked, and retail outlets reportedly use facial recognition to track shoppers’ behaviours, more needs to be done to protect the public. Participating in cybersecurity and ethics discussions at a local level, or even at an Elon Musk-level, will help consumers make safe and meaningful choices when pursuing good health and wellness.

Thank you to WGSN for providing The Medical Startup with a media pass, and to Jennifer Callegari for her help coauthoring and editing this article. 

How Two Australian Medical Startups Are Inspired By Social Media

First published October 6, 2016

The power of communication is something that fascinates The Medical Startup.

Perhaps it’s our experience from looking after stroke patients who’ve lost the ability to speak.

From meeting patients who speak English as a second, third, fourth or even fifth language, and being awed at their skill.

From speaking with non-medical professionals who are trying to break into healthcare and learn healthcare’s language, and vice-versa.

Or from recognising how difficult it must be when an Australian doctor moves to work in a US hospital, and gets stumped by differences in common hospital terminology (read: ER versus ED; or in the UK, ICU vs ITU; or even paracetamol versus acetaminophen, which I encountered on a flight one day. Add in the accent difference, and you’ll see what we mean!).

This fascination with communication in medicine was what inspired us to connect with the Mayo Social Media Summit, which will be in Melbourne next month. Below are two Australian medtech startups founded by medical doctors, and how they’ve used social media with their apps.*

One through instant messaging, and one for the cancer journey. 

1. Bleep


Bleep‘s hashtag feature as inspired by social media. Free download on GooglePlay and the AppStore. Pic courtesy of MedSquared

Sydney-based medtech startup Bleep took a page from social media by cleverly including hashtags to group conversations within its clinician messaging system, and using the “@” system popular with Twitter and Instagram to directly contact particular team members looking after a patient.


Emergency Medicine doctor Joe Logan and co-founder Sarah Humphreys wanted to make messaging easier, secure and more efficient for healthcare workers within hospitals, residential care facilities and other clinical care centres. As Dr Logan explained, “At work, I receive texts, phone calls, emails and paper notes from members of the care team, making communication inefficient as it’s often between two parties rather than the multidisciplinary team.” Not to mention the confusion when a four-digit pager number is entered incorrectly and directed to the wrong person or team, wasting precious time in an emergency.

With Facebook and Twitter already on most peoples’ phones, this means Bleep takes a familiar practice from out-of-work communications to implement safer and better targeted messaging systems in clinical care.

2. CancerAid


CancerAid makes the cancer journey easier for patients, loved ones and healthcare professionals through several features including its Journal, Treatment diary, Opt-in Research, and Newsfeed. Pic courtesy of founder Dr Nik Pooviah

Another Australian startup, CancerAid, has successfully used storytelling and community-building to help humanise the earth-shattering cancer experience for would-be users of their app.

Founder and Radiation Oncology registrar Dr Nikhil Pooviah was struck with his CancerAid Awards inspiration one day as the app was preparing for its soft launch on the AppStore. (Stay tuned for Android news.) Celebrating the victories of cancer patients, oncology researchers, charity fundraisers, and others in the Oncology world, CancerAid’s growing reach speaks volumes about the power of sharing experiences to help deal with a tremendous burden of illness.

CancerAid‘s Symptoms Journal solves the memory recall problem encountered by patients and care providers in clinics worldwide, allowing better tracking of side-effects and other problems. Pic courtesy of CancerAid

Furthermore, CancerAid’s Awards and Championsconcept empowers users to treat the cancer journey not as a setback, but as a temporary hurdle, a race of sorts, with a Winning mindset from the start.

What strategies do you use involving social media with your healthcare solution? Leave a comment below or Contact Us if you want to share privately.

The Mayo Social Media Summit is for anyone interested in how social media can help solve problems in healthcare. They also run a course for medical professionals navigating social media. Tickets for the Summit in Melbourne are available here. 

*The startups listed are not affiliated with the Mayo Clinic. If you’re interested in learning more about either startup or enquiring about trialling either at your hospital/clinic/service, contact them at the links in this article. Both Bleep and CancerAid are currently available on the AppStore for free download.  Bleep is also on GooglePlay.