The future of healthcare is shaping up in front of our very eyes with advances in digital healthcare technology, such as in artificial intelligence, VR/AR, 3D-printing, robotics, or nanotechnology. We must familiarize with the latest developments to be able to control technology and not the other way around. The future of healthcare lies in working together with technology and healthcare workers have to embrace emerging types of healthcare technology in order to stay relevant in the coming years. Here are some of the technologies that impact healthcare as we know it in the coming years;
I believe that artificial intelligence has the potential to redesign healthcare completely. AI algorithms can mine medical records, design treatment plans or create drugs way faster than any current actor on the healthcare palette including any medical professional.
More recently, Google’s DeepMind created an A.I. for breast cancer analysis. The algorithm outperformed all human radiologists on pre-selected data sets to identify breast cancer, on average by 11.5%!
These are only two of the many examples of companies using A.I. to advance healthcare from designing new drugs to disrupting medical imaging to mining medical records.
Virtual reality (VR) is changing the lives of patients and physicians alike. In the future, you might watch operations as if you wielded the scalpel or you could travel to Iceland or home while you are lying on a hospital bed.
VR is being used to train future surgeons and for actual surgeons to practice operations. Such software programmes are developed and provided by companies like Osso VR and ImmersiveTouch and are in active use with promising results. A recent Harvard Business Review study showed that VR-trained surgeons had a 230% boost in their overall performance compared to their traditionally-trained counterparts.
The technology is also benefiting patients and has been proven to be effective in pain management. Women are being equipped with VR headsets to visualize soothing landscapes so as to help them get through labour pain. Patients suffering from gastrointestinal, cardiac, neurological and post-surgical pain have shown a decline in their pain levels when using VR to distract them from painful stimuli.
As the future of medicine and healthcare is closely connected to the empowerment of patients as well as individuals taking care of their own health through technologies, I cannot leave out health trackers, wearables, and sensors from my selection. They are great devices to get to know more about ourselves and retake control over our own lives.
When it comes to gadgets and instant solutions, there is the great dream of every healthcare professional: to have one almighty and omnipotent device, with which you can diagnose and analyse every disease.
We are living at the dawn of the nanomedicine age. I believe that nanoparticles and nanodevices will soon operate as precise drug delivery systems, cancer treatment tools or tiny surgeons.
As far back as 2014, researchers from the Max Planck Institute designed scallop-like microbots designed to literally swim through your bodily fluids. Small, smart pills like the PillCam are already in use for colon exams in a noninvasive, patient-friendly way. In late 2018, MIT researchers created an electronic pill that can be controlled wirelessly and relay diagnostic information or release drugs in response to smartphone commands.
One of the most exciting and fastest growing fields of healthcare is robotics; developments range from robot companions through surgical robots until pharmabotics, disinfectant robots or exoskeletons.
3D-printing can bring wonders in all aspects of healthcare. We can now print biotissues, artificial limbs, pills, blood vessels and the list goes on and will likely keep on doing so.
In November 2019, researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, developed a method to 3D-print living skin along with blood vessels. This development proves crucial for skin grafts for burn victims. Also, helping patients in need are NGOs like Refugee Open Ware and Not Impossible which 3D-print prosthetics for refugees from war-torn areas.
Currently, the process of developing new drugs is too long and too expensive. However, there are ways to improve drug development with methods ranging from artificial intelligence to in silico trials. Such new technologies and approaches already are and will be dominating the pharmaceutical landscape in the years to come.
We are truly living in revolutionary times for healthcare thanks to the advent of digital health.