Healthcare is a tech-driven industry, and it’s one that thrives on constant advancement. Depending on the specialty and who you ask, though, what innovations will make the biggest difference in the field may vary widely – and as we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, things can change at any moment, tipping the balance. Not long ago, we viewed telehealth as a tool for reaching underserved patient groups, and now everyone meets with their doctors online.
Among the many exciting new approaches to healthcare redefining medicine today, these four advancements are poised to revolutionize diagnosis and treatment, as well as practice management, helping providers serve their patients more effectively.
Surprises lurk around every corner, but the more tools we have at our disposal, the more likely we are to be able to help patients in life-threatening situations.
For at least two decades, doctors have been hinting at the possibility that, especially for complex conditions like cancer and multiple sclerosis, patients would eventually receive individualized therapies.
This prediction has come true in some ways, especially with targeted cancer therapy based on gene sequencing, but it is still in its infancy. Expanded tools like the Million Veteran Program, which seeks to use gene sequencing along with extensive personal histories to understand different patient profiles, could bring us closer to this eventuality, especially with greater enrollment by women and minority populations.
Anyone who has ever worked in a medical practice can tell you that huge amounts of time and energy go into management, and that these tasks are a barrier to more patient engagement.
Luckily, new tools are constantly emerging to streamline the management process. Among the types of new technology that are defining the future of healthcare are specialized speech recognition software that can help doctors complete documentation more quickly and accurately, as well as improved EHR platforms. EHRs are necessary and adoption of these was mandated by the federal government, but many are cumbersome and hard to work with.
Technical improvements, including the implementation of native AI, could go a long way towards improving their function.
Innovating On RNA
Gene therapy is one of the most cutting-edge options in medical treatment today, and it’s still in its infancy – and, what’s more, there are multiple approaches to the intervention still in development.
Among the different gene therapy tools being explored in laboratories today are RNA-based drugs that can help the body produce the appropriate proteins, treating conditions like cystic fibrosis in which improper protein synthesis is the underlying cause of disease. Many genetic disorders are caused by protein deficiencies or other problems with protein synthesis, meaning that RNA-based interventions could be the key to saving countless lives.
Tackling The Data
As noted above, the computer systems underlying healthcare management are key to better patient care, but what if the information held in those systems could also help us uncover better treatments?
This is the promise behind a centralized healthcare data hub, a tool that could allow researchers to see huge quantities of anonymized data in one place and draw algorithmically-driven conclusions on everything from disease etiology to treatment protocols.
But while such a tool could substantially increase our understanding of different diseases, creating this type of centralized system would require greater collaboration between provider networks than is typically seen.
Medicine is changing every day, and treatments that weren’t available just a few months or a year ago are actively saving lives. In a field that can sometimes feel heavy with the weight of death and disease, then, there is always room for hope. Something new is always on the horizon.