Coronavirus Spurring Innovation in Healthcare | WELL

09 March 2020

The Coronavirus is spurring demand for medical innovation to combat such viral outbreaks.

Innovation in healthcare now ranks amongst the most dynamic, fast-growing sectors. AI, Robotics and Cloud/5G are speeding up medical advances – leading to dramatically lower costs in such areas as genome sequencing, tele-medicine and wearables.  The latest outbreak will only lead to more demand for online/virtual medical services – as individuals seek to limit their interactions in hospital settings.

An Innovative Healthcare revolution is upon us - increasing the availability of diagnostic services and decreasing the cost of medical services.  Artificial intelligence (AI) and big data can increasingly diagnose and identify diseases better than the average medical professional.  This is particularly true in cases where staff have little experience in rarely seen diseases.

Google is already investing heavily in this area, purchasing anonymous patient/hospital records and wearable technology company, Fitbit for over $2bn [1]. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G is boosting remote controlled telemedicine, robotic surgery and allows emergency services to have immediate access to information on patients.


The increasing integration of robotics and medicine will help limit infections across hospitals and quarantine areas.  Robots are now capable of helping to change IV bags, take patient samples, handle biohazardous waste and decontaminate rooms and ambulances.  The current outbreak will lead to far greater scalability of these features.

Rooms of the future could all have cleaning robots.  The COVID-19 outbreak increases the demand for robots to interact with patients – limiting the number of health-care workers infected.

Robots can be used to take vital signs, provide comfort care, perform minor procedures and perform some delivery and cleaning tasks.  Robots can also offer safer specimen processing and diagnostic procedures - with zero risk of infections or error.

Stanford Hospital in California now has IV bags wirelessly connected to a cloud network, that can be remotely programmed.  This IV bag allows for remote and accurate monitoring.  Ultimately, robots could change the IV bags.  Sensors are also being used in Stanford to prompt hospital staff to ambulate patients. UV sanitizing robots are now increasingly used in highly contagious areas, where virulent organisms are present.

Telehealth services, personal health monitoring, remote surgery and medical wearables are increasingly being adopted to prevent diseases.  The number of IoT connections worldwide is projected to increase to 75.44 billion worldwide, a fivefold increase in ten years [2]. 5G's reliability, low latency, strong security and global availability will enable fast adoption of AI diagnostics, remote surgeries and medical wearables too. Outbreaks like the Coronavirus will drive adoption of wearables and smart AI diagnostics.

Genome Sequencing

The Wuhan virus’ genome was fully sequenced in less than a month since the first case was detected. This is crucial for the development of diagnostics and vaccines.  Technological progress means the delays of first cultivating a sufficient amount of viruses is no longer required.  Only tiny amounts of viral DNA are now required - detected directly from a patient’s spit or blood sample. The Genome market is set to grow dramatically, leading to a wave of more personalised medicine and gene therapy.

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Ultimately it will provide far more effective and customised healthcare treatments based on a person’s specific genes and the diseases they are more prone to contract. Genomics' size is expected to double from almost $19bn (2019) to $36bn by 2024. 

The cost of gene sequencing is falling as computing power increases and data storage costs fall.

Medical Wearables/Trackers

Google recently spent over $2bn [3] buying loss-making Fitbit to get into medical wearables in a big way. Google is also buying diagnostic hospital data for its machine learning ventures in healthcare.  With the US suffering from a diabetes epidemic - these devices can play a key role monitoring blood sugar levels 24/7, ensuring patients are kept aware of any worrying symptoms.

Mobile devices are already being used as part of medical AI diagnosis and treatment around the world. 

5G advances means screening for Coronavirus-type symptoms will be easier in future and quarantined patients could be better monitored with the help of robots.


Telemedicine allows doctors to communicate with the patients in isolation.  A telemedical robot can already listen to the heart and lungs of patients.  The hospital room of the future will be increasingly virtual, allowing loved ones and doctors who don’t want to be exposed to still interact with the patient.  It is possible to convert entire intensive care units to telemedicine communication devices.

Virtual visits are already growing in the US.  Providence a large US hospital network – predicts this will represent 10% of all doctor visits within 3-4 years. A number of routine infectious diseases, plus hypertension, diabetes and stroke diagnosis are well suited for telemedicine to replace in-person consultations.

Increasingly, cloud technology will be able to host virtual medical consulting services - instead of paying a doctor to be available 24/7.  Private cloud networks across US hospitals are growing fast.

Medical Equipment ETF 

The HAN-GINS Healthcare Innovation ETF (WELL) provide investors with access to a basket of over 100 companies at from exciting areas of innovative healthcare that include medical devices, robotics, genome sequencing as well as healthcare trackers/wearables and neuroscience.

WELL tracks the Indxx Advanced Life Science and Smart Healthcare Thematic Index, an index designed to measure the performance of large, mid and small market capitalization companies primarily listed on an  exchange in developed and emerging markets that are involved in the advanced life sciences and smart healthcare sector.

When you trade ETCs, your capital is at risk. 

Article Date: 9th March 2020. 

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