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How technology is changing healthcare
Advances in digital healthcare technologies, such as artificial intelligence, VR technology, 3D printing, robots, and nanotechnology, are transforming the future of healthcare right before our eyes. We must keep up with current events in order to be able to govern technology rather than the other way around.
Working hand-in-hand with technology is the future of healthcare, and healthcare personnel must embrace developing healthcare technologies to be relevant in the coming years.
Be fearless, curious, and well-informed!
Are you concerned that nurses, physicians, and other healthcare workers will be replaced by robots? Do you worry that artificial intelligence will take over the planet in a few years? Do you experience nightmares involving children and adults hooked to virtual reality roaming about in their fictitious fantasy world? Are you afraid of having a DNA test since it may reveal the date of your death?
All of them are half-truths, fake news, and other imagined nightmare scenarios. Alternative facts concerning the future of medicine, to put it another way. However, they all share one fear: that of the unknown place known as the future and what it may bring upon us.
But, no matter how frightening the future may appear at the present, we cannot stop technological progress; sooner or later, we will discover that digital technologies have altered entire aspects of our life. As a result, our current duty is to face our worries about the future with bravery, to approach technology with an open mind, and to prepare for a changing world with as much care as possible.
Humans and technology working together to improve healthcare
This, I honestly feel, is the only path ahead. Only by standing on its shoulders and staying (at least) two steps ahead of it can technology help and enhance our lives. However, if we follow this guideline, the collaboration between humans and technology might generate incredible results.
In medicine and healthcare, digital technology has the potential to help transform inefficient healthcare systems into sustainable ones, equalise the relationship between doctors and patients, provide cheaper, faster, and more effective disease solutions — technologies could help us win the battle against cancer, AIDS, or Ebola — and simply lead to healthier people who live in healthier environments.
This, I believe, is the only way forward. Technology can only aid and enrich our lives if we stand on its shoulders and keep (at least) two steps ahead of it. However, if we follow this rule, human-technological partnership might produce remarkable outcomes.
And what does it all look like in practice? This essay will serve as an introduction to the 10 ways that medical technology is altering healthcare. I welcome you to read The Guide to the Future of Medicine, which I wrote, for a more in-depth examination and other instances.
1. Virtual Reality (VR) and medical world
Virtual reality (VR) is transforming the lives of both patients and doctors. In the future, you could be able to observe surgeries as if you were the surgeon, or you might be able to fly to Iceland or back home while resting in a hospital bed.
Virtual reality is being used to teach future surgeons as well as to practice surgeries by current surgeons. Companies like Osso VR and ImmersiveTouch have created and offered such software programmes, which are currently in use with promising results. According to a recent Harvard Business Review research, virtual reality-trained surgeons beat their traditionally trained counterparts by 230%.
Patients benefit from the technology, which has been shown to be beneficial in pain treatment. Virtual reality headsets are being given to women to help them imagine relaxing surroundings while in labor. When patients with gastrointestinal, cardiac, neurological, and post-surgical pain used virtual reality to distract them from uncomfortable stimuli, their pain levels decreased. Patients having surgery reported reduced discomfort and anxiety, as well as a better overall hospital experience, according to a 2019 pilot research.
2. Augmented reality (AR) and future of medicine
Augmented reality varies from virtual reality in two ways: users don’t lose contact with reality, and information is delivered as quickly as feasible. These unique characteristics allow AR to become a driving force in the future of medicine, both for healthcare practitioners and for patients.
In the case of medical practitioners, it may assist medical students better prepare for real-life procedures while also allowing surgeons to improve their skills. Students at Case Western Reserve University are already using the Microsoft HoloLens to learn anatomy using the HoloAnatomy app. Medical students can learn the subject without using real bodies by using this approach, which gives them access to comprehensive and realistic, although virtual, representations of the human anatomy.
Magic Leap, another promising startup, will bring its slightly distinct mixed reality headgear to healthcare. To extend its spatial computing technology to healthcare, Magic Leap has collaborated with SyncThink for brain health, XRHealth for therapeutic platform development, and Brainlab, a German healthcare technology firm. Although no commercial goods have yet emerged from these collaborations, we may expect to see them in the healthcare industry in the near future.
3. Artificial intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence, in my opinion, has the capacity to radically transform healthcare. AI algorithms can mine medical information, devise treatment plans, and produce medicines far quicker than any other participant in the healthcare ecosystem, including doctors.
Atomwise use supercomputers to search through a library of molecular structures for treatments. The start-up started a virtual search in 2015 for safe, current medications that might be modified to treat Ebola. They discovered two medicines that were anticipated by the company’s artificial intelligence system that may actually lower Ebola infectivity.
Google’s DeepMind recently developed an A.I. for breast cancer analysis. On pre-selected data sets, the algorithm beat all human radiologists by 11.5 percent on average in detecting breast cancer!
These are just two of many instances of firms using artificial intelligence to enhance healthcare, from medication development to medical imaging disruption to medical record mining. In a recent post, we compiled some of our favourite instances. With all of these concrete instances, imagine the possibilities for mankind if AI is used early and results in such great discoveries!
4. Sensors, monitors, and healthcare trackers
I couldn’t leave health trackers, wearables, and sensors out of my list since the future of medicine and healthcare is inextricably linked to patient empowerment and individuals taking control of their own health through technology. They’re fantastic tools for learning more about ourselves and regaining control of our life.
I use the Fitbit Ionic to log my workouts and monitor my sleep. I augment it with the Polar H10, which I use with my trainer to fine-tune my training programmes and discover the optimum workouts for my ability. The Muse headband greatly aided me in locating the most important elements that I require for a successful meditation session. Now I don’t have to rely on the technology to communicate with my thoughts.
There is a device for all of these requirements and more! Whether you want to better manage your weight, stress, cognitive abilities, or general fitness and energy, there is a device for all of these needs and more! The beauty of these new technology-driven gadgets is that they truly put patients at the centre of treatment. These gadgets enable people to take charge of their health and make more informed decisions by allowing them to monitor their health at home and communicate the data with their physician remotely.
5. Tricorder for medical use
When it comes to gadgets and fast answers, every healthcare practitioner has a dream: to have one all-powerful and omnipotent equipment that can detect and analyse any ailment. It even featured in Star Trek as the medical tricorder, but only on screen. When Dr. McCoy scanned a patient with his tricorder, the portable, hand–held gadget displayed vital signs, other information, and a diagnosis right away. For doctors, it was the Swiss Army knife.
With the rapid advancement of healthcare technology, we now live in a world where technologies that were previously only a fiction of sci-fi fans’ imaginations are now a reality! One such palm-sized device is the Viatom CheckMe Pro, which can monitor ECG, heart rate, oxygen saturation, temperature, blood pressure, and more!
Other firms are working on comparable devices, such as the MedWand, which, in addition to detecting numerous vital indicators, has a camera for telemedicine. Then there’s BioIntelliSense’s FDA-approved BioSticker, which, despite its small size and thinness, can monitor a wide range of data such as respiration rate, heart rate, skin temperature, body posture, activity levels, and sleep statistics.
We are at the beginning of the nanomedicine era. Nanoparticles and nanodevices, I believe, will soon be used as precise medication delivery systems, cancer therapy tools, and miniature surgeons.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute developed scallop-like microbots that could swim through your body fluids as early as 2014. Small, smart tablets, such as the PillCam, are already being used for noninvasive, patient-friendly colon examinations. In late 2018, MIT researchers developed a remotely controlled electronic pill that may convey diagnostic information or deliver medication.
Smart patches, which are based on nanotechnology, are also making progress. Grapheal, a startup headquartered in France, showed their smart patch at CES 2020, which enables for continuous wound monitoring and even stimulates wound healing thanks to its graphene core.
We will see more practical instances of nanotechnology in medicine as technology advances. Future PillCams may potentially capture biopsy samples for additional examination, while nano-surgeons could become a reality thanks to remote-controlled capsules.
Robotics is one of the most interesting and rapidly developing sectors in healthcare, with advancements ranging from robot companions to surgical robots, pharmabotics, disinfection robots, and exoskeletons.
Exoskeletons had a fantastic year in 2019. It saw Europe’s first exoskeleton-assisted surgery, as well as a tetraplegic guy who could operate an exoskeleton with his mind! There are several more uses for these sci-fi costumes, ranging from assisting nurses to lifting elderly patients to assisting patients with spinal cord injuries.
In healthcare, robot companions can help reduce loneliness, manage mental health concerns, and even assist children with chronic illnesses. Jibo, Pepper, Paro, and Buddy are all instances of existing robots. Touch sensors, cameras, and microphones are included in some of them so that their owners may interact with them. For example, an Australian business called ikki is helping children with chronic diseases keep track of their meds, temperature, and respiration rate while entertaining them with music and stories.
3D printing has the potential to revolutionise healthcare in every way. We can currently print biotissues, artificial limbs, medicines, blood arteries, and the list goes on, and it is probable that we will continue to do so in the future.
Researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, found a way to 3D-print live skin and blood arteries in November of this year. This breakthrough is critical for burn sufferers who require skin transplants. NGOs such as Refugee Open Ware and Not Impossible, which 3D-print prostheses for refugees from war-torn countries, are also assisting people in need.
This technique also benefits the pharmaceutical sector. Since 2015, the FDA has authorised 3D-printed medicines, and researchers are now working on 3D-printed “polypills.” These include many layers of medicines to aid patients in sticking to their treatment plans.
With the advent of digital health, we are certainly living in revolutionary times for healthcare. Our aim is to disseminate healthcare information and innovations that will usher in a new era of medicine. Share our articles and your views with us to help us achieve our goal!
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