Recent advances in technology such as 3D-printing, nanotechnology, AI, and robotics mean that digital healthcare is taking shape before our eyes. Even patients at home are able to take advantage of technology advancements such as medical alert devices, fitness apps, healthcare trackers and sensors.
Many consider technology to be the only way forward for healthcare. And there’s no denying it has the potential to transform the industry forever. It can help provide cheaper, faster, and more effective solutions for a variety of diseases, transform inappropriate healthcare systems into appropriate ones, equalize relationships between professionals and medical patients, and help us lead healthier lives in healthier communities.
Let’s look at some of the ways in which healthcare is being shaped by medical technology.
AI algorithms are able to mine medical records to help them design treatment plans, develop drugs quicker than any doctor, and even diagnose cancerous and noncancerous tissue samples.
Two companies that are at the forefront of using AI technology to bring healthcare into the future are Atomwise and DeerMind.
Atomwise created a virtual search for safe, existing medicines that could be reengineered to treat the Ebola virus. It found two that were predicted by the company’s AI technology to reduce the infectivity of Ebola.
Deermind recently developed an AI for breast cancer analysis. The new algorithm exceeded human radiologists performance by 11.5% on pre-cleared sets of data to distinguish breast cancer.
Virtual reality is already used in many situations such as training future surgeons and for qualified surgeons to practice operations. Companies such as Osso VR and ImmersiveTouch are developing these software programs and so far, the results are very promising. A recent study revealed that VR-trained surgeons had a 230% increase in their overall performance, compared to traditionally-trained surgeons.
Patients can also benefit from technology advancements. One area of improvement is pain management. During labor pain, women are being equipped with VR headsets to allow them to visualize a soothing landscape.
Patients diagnosed with cardigan, neurological, gastrointestinal, and post-surgical pain have shown a decrease in pain levels when using VR as a stimuli.
AR is a little different to VR because users do not lose touch with reality. Information is simply put into eyesight as fast as possible.
For medical professionals, AR could help medical students better prepare for real-life operations and also allow existing surgeons to improve their skills. Using Microsoft’s HoloLens, students can gain knowledge of anatomy using the HoloAnatomy app. They are able to access accurate and detailed, albeit digital representations of human anatomy in order to study without the need for human subjects.
Patients and individuals are able to take better care of their health using technologies such as wearables, health trackers and sensors. These excellent devices allow us to learn more about our health and give us more control over our own lives.
Options include devices such as the Fitbit Ionic which monitors sleep and tracks workouts, the Polar H10 which can finetune a workout routine, and the Muse headband which assists with meditation.
There are devices for all requirements, whether you’re looking to manage your stress levels, weight, or cognitive capabilities netter, feel more energetic or healthy overall.
Thanks to technology, we now live in a world where one all-powerful and supreme device can analyse and diagnose every disease.
One such gadget is the Viatom CheckMe Pro. It can measure heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, ECG, oxygen saturation, and much more.
These machines are not quite tricorders, but the advances are coming. It won’t be long before there are high-powered microscopes with smartphones that analyze images and swab samples of skin lesions.
It might not be long before we see nanoparticles and nanodevices operating as accurate drug delivery systems, tiny surgeons, or cancer treatment tools.
Back in 2014, researchers from the Max Planck Institute designed small scallop-shaped microbots that physically swim through bodily fluids. Smart pills, such as PillCam, are being used for colon exams in a patient-friendly, noninvasive way.
MIT researchers in late 2018 developed an electronic pill that is wirelessly controlled. It can relay analysis information or release drugs in reply to smartphone orders.
Graphael, a France-based company, showcased its smart patch at CES 2020. It is able to continually monitor wounds and its graphene core can even help with healing the wound faster.
One of the most exciting and fastest growing fields of medicine is robotics. Developments range from disinfectant robots or exoskeletons right through to surgical robots and pharmabotics.
2019 was a good year for exoskeletons. It was the year when the very first exoskeleton-aided surgery was performed. A tetraplegic man became capable of controlling an exoskeleton using only his brain. There are many applications for these robots, from lifting elderly patients and aided nursing to assisting patients with spinal cord injuries.
We are living in innovative times, not just for medicine but in a wealth of other industries too and we’ve got technology to thank for that. However, what we should be mindful of is not letting technology advancements run away with themselves, adhering to the rule of “two steps ahead of it” and the principles of ethics.