These chiropractic health trends may surprise you, and bring an opportunity for practices
This chiropractic health trends forecast is different than any other, looking at dollars driving growth in North America, as well as movement in the industry, patient input, global feedback from the chiropractic community, as well as input from vendors.
During the COVID pandemic in 2020-21 there was a massive swing of funding to mental health — then mental health deflated and was slightly down in 2022. Mental health refers to a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stress of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to contribute to his or her community. Mental Health was the second highest-funded cluster in North America (Canada, U.S. and Mexico) in H1 2022. It captured 8% of the venture funding and includes 19% of the digital health venture volume in North America.
Wholistic treatment of patient mental health
Mental health disorders include depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc. This lines up with my wholistic thoughts on rising depression and increased cytokines from being overweight causing inflammation, fatigue, malaise, appetite changes and the desire to rest and socially isolate.
My recommendations for depression for patients are lose the fat if that is needed, and get patients exercising; for anxiety I figure out a way to show the body and mind it can take on more stress and return back to a normal “okay” afterward.
Anxiety is about taking out fear. I get people moving where they were afraid to move, I get people breathing, meditating and relaxing again. For schizophrenia, I know there are better practitioners out there to treat that. A definite top trend is virtual reality (VR), and I see virtual reality as amazing for mental health care, along with performance optimization, physical therapy, sports training and whatever your imagination. VR is immersive; the brain thinks it’s real, it’s the virtual roller coaster at Disney.
Venture funding for therapeutics, health tech
Therapeutic areas of venture capital that got the most funding were oncology, mental health, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurology, nutrition, respiratory disease, gastroenterology and dermatology.
In 2022, ventures in oncology were least affected by the funding downturn, with a 12% decrease in funding when comparing the first-half results of 2021 and 2022. Chiropractors have tremendous room to help the population in each of these therapeutic areas.
Health technology research recorded an increase of funding across 2021-22. Health technology is a cluster of health management solutions, medical diagnostics, research solutions, patient solutions, population health management and telemedicine. The funding increase is no surprise because it includes the biopharma research chain, drug discovery side, drug trials, clinical trials, regulatory filings and peer-reviewed publications.
Diagnostics and the No. 1 chiropractic health trend
Medical diagnostics was also highly funded in 2022, capturing 13% of the venture funding. Medical diagnostics is a cluster that includes IT management and health management solutions, patient solutions (digital therapies, medical management, personal data checkers), telemedicine, wellness solutions and population health management.
This is only going to grow in corporate America and is something for chiropractors to pay attention to. This includes digital tools supporting physicians in diagnostics, e.g., processing software for organic and radiological images, computer vision technologies for medical image labelling, genetic sequencing technologies for diagnostics, etc.
In 2023 chiropractors may face a bumpy ride, with cuts to costs and/or a focus on profitability before growth, or rethinking business models. But I see a clear space for co-management of pharma care with technology alongside non-invasive care and “biohacking” care. It is going to be an exciting year regardless. Maybe you’ll establish partnerships or consolidate. Chiropractors are more relevant than ever to the health care space. I’m most interested in wellness, preventative health, and longevity, which is the No. 1 trend. Let’s call it biohacking.
The polls suggest familiar trends are virtual reality workouts, wearable tech, group exercise classes, personalized and home exercise — but I sense something so much bigger on the horizon. Anything that takes patients from sick care to wellness care is in.
2023 and COVID … and beyond
Home health is the future trend – I’ve personally ushered in air filters, ionizers, a cooling mattress, more Bluetooth devices (not a good thing), and then needed an electro-magnetic field (EMF) mattress protector, haptics, non-invasive neural brain interfaces and more.
We’ll see virtual reality and augmented reality becoming more and more informative. This will lead to more heads-up displays because everyone is vying for your attention (ugh).
For the next 5-10 years beyond COVID, think resilience, health and performance optimization, longevity health span, work-life balance, and be able to scale and engineer new forms of customer engagement. We’ll see direct-to-market avatars, optic enhancers and meta-humans. The holy grail is “presence and agency.” Presence incorporates all five senses within the coming meta-verse. You can go in and taste the apple and touch the person next to you. You are in that experience. It’s a full sensory experience — the physical world and the digital world as a continuum.
If I was a young doctor, I would think about equipment that will train all the senses at once, including balance; I’d save money for the new eye lens optics for myself and my practice. The human eye processes 70% of all sensory experiences; 40% is in the neocortex. Brain training is getting bigger and bigger already. To be a practitioner or a facility that consolidates health is becoming common.
Years ago, Google disrupted the industry by introducing their augmented reality headwear, projecting onto the retina. Now you can experience combined AR and VR, for example, with a “smart contact lens.” These are invisible computing devices, from contact lenses that give you augmented information to helping vision impairment (glaucoma, macular degeneration), seeing in the dark, or controlling a webpage or object via eye tracking. VR is the medium that “transports us.”
“Haptics” will be in daily use in the office of the future, including body suits with touchy-feely gloves, VR, feedback, force feedback, an exoskeleton and vibration sensors. This technology is already here. These will improve patient outcomes — targeting muscles, movements, measuring progress — it’s going to be immersive rehab and training of new skills. For a reminder of this tech, watch the Matrix movie again for the fun of it.
Think of the applications for sports mechanics and sports medicine.
Nobody is talking about drones, but drones are coming that will deploy 5G and beyond, along with “tele-presence” and remote collaboration. We’re already seeing it with Zoom, Lenovo, Salesforce, HTC, etc. What is going to make 2D into 3D and make it more interactive will be the full deployment of 5G. It’s not just putting people together and working on data — you can put a group together and even work on difficult cases. No one has run away with this space yet.
Brain-interface controlled experiences
The mind-brain/machine interface-controlled experience is coming. A compact sensor translates neural signals into real-world actions; it measures neural signals, translates them into commands, and gives mind-controlled experiences, such as commanding smart objects without saying a word.
Aim-shoot-teleport: This is real — it’s in military use but not ready yet for the public. It’s disruptive and it’s not invasive (nothing is inserted into you). On the other end of this scale, imagine making music you can conduct with your thoughts.
Looking way out, digital humans and the ability to see in 3D and manipulate in 3D is coming. With digital humans, or MetaHumans, you create the narrative, the look, a fully fictional digital human. You’ll do things with avatars; I heard one person suggest 95% of interactions will be brand representatives. You can create an individual – a synthetic human being just for gamification; another for other aspects of life.
All the ingredients are there — it just needs to be mixed and baked. It will take time to figure out that perfect recipe.
Although chiropractic growth is apparent (we can measure student enrollment, active state licenses), the ability to measure impact is not. Despite the thousands of chiropractic health practitioners targeting the myriad of needs across the health care continuum, clinical robustness and public communication of claims remain low.
In these chiropractic health trends I see a significant opportunity for practitioners to differentiate themselves and specialize, and for customers to demand greater validation for the products and services they purchase.
JEFFREY TUCKER, DC, practices in West Los Angeles, Calif. He is a prominent and successful chiropractic doctor who specializes in treating conditions related to ongoing inflammation and chronic musculoskeletal diseases, including neuropathy, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Tucker has over 40 years of specialized experience, has written over 100 articles for chiropractors and has lectured in the U.S. and abroad. He is the past president of the American Chiropractic Association Rehabilitation Council. Sign up for his newsletter on his website at DrJeffreyTucker.com.