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The healthcare industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by telemedicine, real-time diagnostics, smart hospitals and access to digital therapies, and the growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), augmented reality (AR), robotics and data management practices. In the last three years alone, there have been over 106,000 patents filed and granted in the healthcare industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare: Digital pathology. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

200+ innovations will shape the healthcare industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the healthcare industry using innovation intensity models built on over 443,000 patents, there are 200+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, drug delivery device security, microscopic image analysis models, and cellular imaging techniques are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Smart balloon catheters, automated immunoassay analysers, and AI-assisted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are smart fitness training system and non-invasive physiological monitoring, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for artificial intelligence in the healthcare industry

Digital pathology is a key innovation area in artificial intelligence

Digital pathology is a branch of pathology that focuses on data management using data obtained from digitised specimen slides. Digital pathology employs virtual microscopy using computer-based technologies. With the advent of digitalisation in pathology, pathologists and patients can immediately solve the issues and limitations caused by the traditional pathology process. The idea entails the digital gathering, management, distribution, and interpretation of pathology information.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established healthcare companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of digital pathology.

Key players in digital pathology – a disruptive innovation in the healthcare industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to digital pathology

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Heartflow 247 Unlock Company Profile
Microsoft 96 Unlock Company Profile
Becton Dickinson and Co 44 Unlock Company Profile
Theator 30 Unlock Company Profile
Sony Group 25 Unlock Company Profile
Danaher 23 Unlock Company Profile
Oracle 23 Unlock Company Profile
AIC Innovations Group 22 Unlock Company Profile
Fujifilm Holdings 20 Unlock Company Profile
F. Hoffmann-La Roche 19 Unlock Company Profile
Drishti Technologies 18 Unlock Company Profile
Hologic 15 Unlock Company Profile
Olympus 14 Unlock Company Profile
Metrologic Instruments 11 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 10 Unlock Company Profile
Koninklijke Philips 10 Unlock Company Profile
Actim 8 Unlock Company Profile
Olympus Soft Imaging Solutions 8 Unlock Company Profile
Proscia 7 Unlock Company Profile
4D Path 7 Unlock Company Profile
Yuyama 7 Unlock Company Profile
MikroScan Technologies 7 Unlock Company Profile
Aiforia Technologies 6 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 6 Unlock Company Profile
European Molecular Biology Laboratory 6 Unlock Company Profile
Biodesix 6 Unlock Company Profile
Ai Cure Technologies 6 Unlock Company Profile
Nucleai 5 Unlock Company Profile
Digital Surgery 5 Unlock Company Profile
Millennium Pharmacy Systems 5 Unlock Company Profile
Medi Whale 5 Unlock Company Profile
International Business Machines 5 Unlock Company Profile
Dai Nippon Printing 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Heartflow is the leading patent filer in the digital pathology market. Some other leading patent filers include Microsoft and Becton Dickinson.

In terms of application diversity, Heartflow leads, followed by Drishti Technologies and Olympus Soft Imaging Solutions. With regards to geographic reach, Becton Dickinson leads, followed by Aiforia Technologies and Sony Group.

Soon, digital pathology will offer enormous potential for routine histopathology. Digital pathology has yielded promising results for initial histopathological diagnosis, with AI algorithms increasingly being integrated into the digital reporting workflow. Nonetheless, concerns about the present level of clinically meaningful benefits persist in the face of significant upfront expenditures and difficult-to-evaluate hospital and reimbursement contexts.

To further understand how artificial intelligence is disrupting the healthcare industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Healthcare.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.