- The Future of Healthcare is Here: Blockchain
- Best Examples of Information Technology in Healthcare Today: AI, ML, and SoI
- Best Applied Healthcare Solutions: Wearables, Portables and IoT
- The Biggest Impact of Technology in Healthcare Industry: Genetic Sequencing and Cell Replacement
- The Most Astonishing Benefits of Technology in Healthcare: Robotic Surgery
- And There is so Much More
The Future of Healthcare is Here: Blockchain
Whether you’re a healthcare professional, entrepreneur or just a person concerned about your health, these days, it’s easy to get the feeling that the healthcare industry is bloated with all sorts of trouble: bureaucracy, outdated technology, unpredictable experiences, too-expensive services and drugs, lack of important reforms (or pure implementation of them)… the list is quite long. Yet there is another side of the coin. People all over the world are trying to bring new solutions that will help address the existing problems and at the same time, improve the quality of healthcare services. In the 21st century, the importance of technology in healthcare cannot be underestimated.
As compared to others, blockchain can now be named as the most required healthcare information technology. While other advancements do help provide services, blockchain aims to address most of the issues that have arisen in the industry during the last few decades. Being basically the way to store and operate with information, blockchain brings so much more with it: data privacy, redundancy decrease, improved interoperability between different entities, risk mitigation, etc. If you’re asking yourself, “What is healthcare infrastructure?” blockchain – with its distributed ledger – is the next-generation answer! As of 2020, blockchain had already made its way in the minds of common people from a suspicious technology behind Bitcoin, to a reliable architectural approach that is flexible and adjustable to changing law regulations, transaction issues and data security challenges.
We already covered the state of the blockchain technology in 2020 in our previous article. There, we revealed that more and more healthcare technology companies are uniting or creating partnerships to either perform important research for the industry or to offer better services for patients. The most outstanding company in this realm is Solve.Care. Its global blockchain-based care coordination platform is created for most healthcare industry players – insurance businesses, hospitals, accountable care organizations, clinics, pharmacies, government agencies – but at the same time it remains focused on being patient-centric. In 2018-2019, it partnered with Arizona Care Network, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Lyft, Uber Health, and other companies. In 2020 this list will keep growing. Notice that these are huge companies that have agreed to significantly adjust their healthcare enterprise architecture for such a partnership. The business expectations from blockchain are extremely high. No other blockchain-based solution has advanced so far until now. It is becoming more and more possible that, even as you read these lines, some of the healthcare services you use are already being fueled by the Solve.Care platform.
Best Examples of Information Technology in Healthcare Today: AI, ML, and SoI
One of the biggest problems in healthcare is data processing. When it comes to determining why a patient got ill, information about their previous trips or family history may be crucial. Also, there are new studies and research, local news, health data from wearable devices and other information that also comes in handy. Obviously, no doctor can collect and process it quickly; the use of technology in healthcare services related to disease diagnosis here would be game-changing.
While blockchain solves the problem of collecting, storing and accessing such data, AI-based systems are aimed at processing it. They might help in:
Figuring out a diagnosis. While the human mind is still inimitable, there are diseases that can be diagnosed much more precisely with the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Systems of Intelligence can be trained to interpret medical images, such as X-rays, mammographies, and MRIs to notice data patterns, or to detect organ anomalies, artery stenosis, tumors and other kinds of pathologies. In 2020, there is Iquity, which can predict multiple sclerosis eight months before it could be detected previously, and Stanford University researchers’ data-driven models, which can analyze ECGs more quickly than cardiologists.
Treatment and post-care monitoring. Care personalization based on an individual patient’s data is also about personalized treatment. Earlier, doctors would prescribe drugs to fight your disease based on previous generalized studies. The dose would be average for your age and sometimes weight; the precise effect on the individual would always be unknown, rarely studied and never predictable enough.
Now, thanks to projects such as 1000 Genome Project and Mount Sinai, we have started studying human genes to customize the treatment, provide more precise prescriptions, and find other, hopefully, less destructive ways to treat cancer. After treatment, already existing types of technology used in healthcare like SeamlessMD’s help save a day in hospital by offering a mobile app that informs doctors about your pain, so that they can respond immediately if something goes wrong. Lastly, there’s a computer simulation. In 2020, we can already simulate how a new drug might react with various cells and body proteins. It can dramatically speed up clinical trials and therefore expedite the drug discovery process. At least, this is what we might expect from London-based Benevolent.AI.
Best Applied Healthcare Solutions: Wearables, Portables, and IoT
Heart and BP monitors.
Wearables for better health are already here and most likely, you’re using one right now. This is probably the most noticeable impact of medical technology on healthcare today. Yet, the potential of such devices is nowhere near exhausted. And it’s not about the technological advancement inside the devices, but rather, using the data from them for better healthcare:
- Insurers like John Hancock consider using health data from these devices to present interactive policies. People with bad habits will pay higher premiums, which should incentivize them to adopt healthier lifestyles.
- Allowing doctors to monitor patients’ health data from such devices will help them prevent or forecast diseases. For patients, it means less expensive treatments and fewer visits to medical facilities. Also, with such data, doctors will be able to see if patients are taking their prescribed meds or not – all thanks to the newest technology in the healthcare industry.
- Data from wearables can be used for context-based automation, thus reducing human intervention and saving doctors’ time for more important tasks. Why visit a doctor if your wearable can give you simple tips to drink more water or take a power nap to get rid of your headache?
With wearables, a patient may obtain more data on their health than practitioners may get in their files, allowing patients to become more educated about their own wellness and pay more attention to it. At the same time, sending the data to their doctor will allow for more transparent and trusting relationships with physicians. Also, with the growing number of seniors, there’s the growing industry of elder care, which brings unique challenges to the industry. So in the upcoming years, we can expect more devices to help the elderly fight their limitations in self-care, vision, hearing, and communication: Unobtrusive wearables that let you live a longer and more comfortable life than ever before – if that’s not the impact of technology on healthcare we all wanted, then what is?
Genetic Sequencing and Cell Replacement: The Biggest Impact of Technology in Healthcare Industry
During the last 30 years, genome sequencing technology has made perhaps the biggest impact on healthcare worldwide. Sequencing the first genome took 13 years. Now it can be done in a day, offering tons of information about potential disorders and diseases like cancer. However, there are still many diseases that we don’t know how to treat well. More research is required to fix that, and startups like Sano can help address this problem by enabling researchers to find people with relevant genetic predispositions. The expectations are the same: improved diagnosis can lead to improved treatment, which can lead to earlier detection and prevention.
The benefits of information technology in healthcare are obvious here; however, the industry is currently concerned about its downsides, such as the security of the data that patients retrieve from their genome. If stolen by third parties, this information can be used in so many health-threatening ways. Another problem is the potential removal of physicians from the process: people can already send their blood samples to an Italian lab, interpret the data through Genomapp, and start self-treatment because of the risks of getting unwanted conditions and diseases.
If genetic sequencing technology made the biggest impact in the 20th century, then its successor for the 21st century is obviously stem cells. The idea behind it is simple: stem cells can self-renew and keep us young. The older we get, the fewer stem cells we have; thus, leveraging them can help cure challenging diseases and prevent health troubles related to aging. The healthcare solution for regenerative medicine is already here: In 2019, 959 businesses were working in this area. There are numerous experts and scientists moving the industry forward. As a result, cell replacement tech is already being used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia (60% of patients show no traces of cancer), spinal muscular atrophy (93% of patients had no need for permanent ventilation 2 years after treatment) and other diseases. The next step is making stem cell therapy available for more people and discovering more ways it can help. Current research suggests imminent advancement in heart disease therapy, cognitive ability expansion, and, ultimately, healthy lifespan increase with next-generation healthcare technology systems.
The Most Astonishing Benefits of Technology in Healthcare: Robotic Surgery
Robotic surgery was probably the easiest foreseen technological innovation at the beginning of the 21st century. A mechanical arm with a camera and surgical instruments, controlled by a surgeon via a computer, brought many advantages, such as more precise operation practices, fewer surgical complications, quicker recoveries, and much smaller scars. Still, we often hear that this industry is still in its infancy. Let’s set aside challenges related to the high costs of providing robotic surgeons to every medical facility and teaching surgeons to use it properly. What’s more interesting is that there’s still room for innovation.
Firstly, each organ or part of the human body requires different healthcare technology solutions. This has led to companies with particular specialties like XACT Robotics, who focus on robots helping with procedures on the abdomen, or TransEnterix, with its Senhance Surgical Robotic System used for hernia repair and cholecystectomy. Secondly, robotic surgeons are becoming smaller and smaller. For instance, the da Vinci SP surgical system can pass up to four mechanical arms through one 25 mm port. Classic surgery is no longer the only way to help patients. In 2018, Intuitive Surgical submitted a flexible catheter program for FDA review. With this device, surgeons will be able to navigate the patient’s body, without incision, through natural orifices. A somewhat similar solution for colorectal surgeons is Medrobotics’ Flex Robotic System.
Finally, combined with artificial intelligence and machine learning, two of the most complicated kinds of information technology, healthcare can expect the rise of so-called “digital surgery”. Companies like Johnson & Johnson, Google, Medtronic, and Intuitive are already working on it. While not yet precisely defined, digital surgery will probably provide important insights to surgeons regarding their skills and tactics, as well as patients’ real-time and expected conditions. Studies show over 4,000 surgical mistakes are made each year. All of those stories about interns forgetting scissors in your abdomen or just plain doing the procedure in the wrong place are a major reason why many of us are afraid of and anxious about surgeries. With robotic surgery (and accordingly updated healthcare IT infrastructure), we’ll be able to not only prevent those 4,000 mistakes and presumably lead to surgeries costing less, but also increase the number of patients ready to undergo complicated operations.
And There is so Much More
Though the above-mentioned technology used in the healthcare industry may awe and inspire you, there is more awaiting us in the near future:
- Upcoming voice recognition technologies should be able to analyze your tone, pitch, and words for possible pathologic conditions and diseases. Data entry should become easier through improved voice-to-text transcription. Finally, despite many services allowing online booking for visits to the doctor’s office, many people still prefer to call; soon, these calls will be processed automatically.
- 3D printing technologies already boost tissue replacement, simplify making implants, and assist with preoperative planning by creating patient-specific anatomical models.
- Upcoming 5G technology should give another breath of fresh air to telemedicine and address the problems of exchanging big files like MRI scans. Cost reduction for those with limited access to healthcare is one of the most expected side effects of this technology.
With all these innovations and health care information technology companies advancing them, in the next ten years we should expect a complete overhaul of healthcare systems – at least, in the most developed countries. And now is the best time for healthcare organizations to get ready for these changes.