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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 Innovation in Healthcare: Digital intra-oral scanning. 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, specimen collection devices, ultrasound imaging system, and automated laboratory systems are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Biological sampling devices, endoscopic ultrasound tomography, and NMR imaging systems are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are doppler ultrasound imaging and CT-guided surgery, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for the healthcare industry

Digital intra-oral scanning is a key innovation area in healthcare

A type of digital dentistry equipment called an intra-oral scanner is used to create digital intra-oral impressions of a patient's mouth without the need for conventional impression trays. The intraoral scanner creates 3D digital representations of 2D pictures based on 3D capture technology. Clinicians utilise them to make impressions for crown preparation, coping cuts, implant prostheses, and orthodontic procedures.

The disadvantages and pain of traditional impressions, such as unpleasant impression trays and the danger of gag reaction, are greatly reduced by digital scanning.

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 20+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established healthcare companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of digital intra-oral scanning.

Key players in digital intra-oral scanning – 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 intra-oral scanning

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Align Technology 236 Unlock Company Profile
Dentsply Sirona 116 Unlock Company Profile
Dental Monitoring 64 Unlock Company Profile
SmileDirectClub 43 Unlock Company Profile
3Shape 43 Unlock Company Profile
Straumann Holding 29 Unlock Company Profile
3M 26 Unlock Company Profile
ULab Systems 22 Unlock Company Profile
Furukawa 22 Unlock Company Profile
Zimmer Biomet Holdings 18 Unlock Company Profile
Envista Holdings 16 Unlock Company Profile
Medit 13 Unlock Company Profile
Ivoclar Vivadent 12 Unlock Company Profile
Dental Smartmirror 10 Unlock Company Profile
SICAT 9 Unlock Company Profile
Danaher 9 Unlock Company Profile
MegaGen Implant 8 Unlock Company Profile
ProSomnus Sleep Technologies 8 Unlock Company Profile
Planmeca 7 Unlock Company Profile
Brain Navi Biotechnology 6 Unlock Company Profile
DIO 6 Unlock Company Profile
VITA Zahnfabrik H Rauter 6 Unlock Company Profile
Oxilio 5 Unlock Company Profile
Cvstom Co. (Uniform Teeth) 5 Unlock Company Profile
Shofu 5 Unlock Company Profile
Ewoo Technology. 5 Unlock Company Profile
GSK 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Align Technology is the leading patent filer in the digital intra-oral scanning market. Some other leading patent filers include Dentsply Sirona and Dental Monitoring.

In terms of application diversity, Brain Navi Biotechnology leads, followed by Ewoo Technology and Dental Monitoring. With regards to geographic reach, ULab Systems leads, followed by Brain Navi Biotechnology and Envista.

The digital scanning market has advanced dramatically over the previous decade, and practitioners may now select the equipment that is most suited to their needs. Digital IOSs appear to have a promising future, the advantage of digital IOSs is that they are a simpler and faster digital imprint process with more efficiency and accuracy but less waste and, in most cases, lower cost. Although some of these potential benefits are still being investigated, most digital procedures have shown to be equal to or better than the traditional way. Digital scanning is no longer a futuristic technology, but rather one that has evolved significantly and performs quite well now.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the healthcare industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on 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.