CADTH Watch List: Artificial intelligence, connected devices, and COVID-19 home sampling among health technology trends gaining momentum in 2021

New horizon scan report offers patients, providers, and decision-makers insight on key health technologies that could transform the delivery of care

OTTAWA, ON, February 17, 2021 — A new Watch List from CADTH identifies 10 emerging health technology trends that are poised to have a significant influence on the future of health care in Canada.

Some of the technologies included in the report are newly developed or recently approved by regulators while others are already in use in Canada, but they all point to a growing need for health care organizations to prepare for disruption and potential adoption.

“Health technologies are major drivers of change in Canadian health systems,” said Dr. Lesley Dunfield, Acting Vice-President, Medical Devices and Clinical Interventions. “When decision-makers have some early awareness of what is in the pipeline, they have a greater ability to plan for the ethical, budgetary, and other operational aspects of implementing a new technology.”

Trends and technologies featured in the Watch List include:

Developments in artificial intelligence (AI) within imaging technologies:

  • AI for brain CT exam analysis — AI-enhanced software automatically detects and notifies health care professionals of critical brain abnormalities after analysis of CT scans, such as intracranial hemorrhage and large vessel occlusion in stroke.
  • AI-enhanced speech therapy — An app combines AI and real-world data to provide cognitive, speech, and language therapy to people who have had a stroke.

Greater integration and connectedness of wearables to improving patient monitoring systems:

  • Digital prevention for sleep disturbance — A device that uses biometric data gathered from a smartwatch to anticipate nightmares before they begin and interrupts the nightmare with a gentle vibration, without waking up the individual.
  • Respiratory sensor for depression — A wireless sensor that detects when the wearer is facing opioid-induced respiratory depression (OIRD) — a common and often fatal side effect of using opioid drugs. The biosensor monitors and analyzes respiration and, when it detects OIRD in the wearer, the device sends an alert to first responders.

COVID-19 testing and identification:

  • Home sampling — A sampling kit for specimen sample collection at home also includes step-by-step instructional support by videoconference to aid with specimen sample collection. Samples are sent to the lab for polymerase chain reaction testing.
  • SARS-CoV-2 and influenza co-testing — Several manufacturers have received authorization for lab-based COVID-19/influenza co-tests. Co-tests have also been approved for point-of-care testing.

CADTH developed the Watch List by examining technologies that were considered to be innovations with potential health system impact now or over the short-term or had received an FDA Breakthrough Devices Designation. Key information sources also included the scientific literature, media outlets, international health technology assessment institutions and forums, government bodies, and manufacturer websites.

Prior to publication, CADTH consulted with our Device Advisory Committee to further contextualize and prioritize the emerging technologies that may become disruptive to the Canadian health care system.

About Horizon Scanning at CADTH

CADTH scans and monitors various health information sources to identify promising technologies not yet widely used in the Canadian health care system. Our horizon scanning publications summarize information about a technology, including available evidence, regulatory status, and potential costs, as well as concurrent developments and implementation issues. Learn more.


CADTH is an independent, not-for-profit agency funded by Canadian federal, provincial, and territorial governments (except Quebec) to provide credible, impartial advice and evidence-based information about the effectiveness of drugs and other health technologies to Canadian health care decision-makers.