Since the turn of the century, we’ve had a rapid stream of innovations coming up in the healthcare sector. In just 20 years, breakthrough healthcare technologies have shaken the status quo, forever changing how health practitioners provide care for their patients.
Let’s look back at some of the most notable healthcare technologies of our century:
Human Genome Project (Big Data)
The first draft of the ‘book of life’ was completed in 2003. A work of genius combined with advanced computing solutions. Mapping out the entire human genome has enabled novel diagnostic and treatment regimens that help predict disease even before it occurs.
Stem cell research
Stem cells can are pluripotent. This means they are capable of growing into any type of tissue. This has enabled doctors to treat rare forms of cancer and paves the way for organ replacement research.
Major open surgeries can now be performed with small incisions that heal quickly and allow the patient to return home in as little as 1 to 3 days after the operation.
Smart prosthetic limbs that are powered by clever computer technology have helped thousands of people regain their independence after losing their limbs.
Electronic health records
The move from paper-based medical records has not only saved the time of practitioners but also countless lives of patients. Doctors have been able to access life-saving information faster and dedicate more time to manage their patients.
The da Vinci Si, an advanced computer-assisted surgical system, helps surgeons perform minimally invasive surgery that causes less scarring, as well as provides a better prognosis. To perform surgery with this machine, both the doctor and the patient have to be in the same hospital. It’s not yet possible to perform remote surgeries.
Using complex computer software and advanced medical imaging, doctors are now able to study the mind when it’s at work. They can track subtle chemical changes in real-time as you think or perform a task. This has expanded our knowledge of how the human brain functions.
Looking forward to the next 10 years, many new and exciting advancements are in the works. A lot of them build on what has already been achieved while others are absolute pattern disrupters.
So, what’s brewing in the labs? Here are three top health technologies that will change healthcare services forever:
Long Distance Robotic Surgery
Powered by high-speed 5G connectivity and other technologies like fiber optics, it will be possible to perform remote surgeries. A surgeon in Los Angeles will be able to operate on a patient in India or Africa without ever leaving his office. This will reduce the cost of access to care for those in less affluent communities and extend the reach of specialist surgeons.
Computer neural networks are being developed that can analyze millions of data from the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). AI will assist health care providers to detect, diagnose and treat diseases. Using data from mHealth apps, medical imaging, and laboratory tests, AI can analyze complex data trends and deliver actionable results that doctors can use to make treatment decisions. AI will dramatically improve the treatment of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other lifestyle diseases.
The UK’s NHS in August of 2019 invested 250 million British Pounds (about US$307 million) to construct the National Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. It’s expected that other governments will follow the UK’s lead.
Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)
A ubiquitous ecosystem will exist that connects entire populations to the healthcare system using sensors and wearable medical devices. Health emergencies will be automatically detected and an ambulance can potentially be summoned by AI-powered software on your mobile phone. IoMT is poised to improve health service delivery, reduce mortality and increase life expectancy.
What makes this technology revolutionary is that the patient can participate in making sure they get the best care without even realizing it or making any effort apart from wearing a simple medical device. Data is passively transmitted to healthcare providers so each patient can receive personalized care without undergoing lengthy labs to investigate and diagnose. It will improve the speed of care as well as reduce costs for both patients and health institutions.
Security is already in the spotlight and as technology embeds itself more intimately with healthcare, the incentive for hackers to access patient records rises sharply. According to Joe Tuan, healthcare technology expert and founder of Topflight Apps, blockchain technology will form the basis of future data protection solutions. Research, administration and other functions involving medical data will be done using blockchain apps. With 5G and AI, this will integrate beautifully into the ecosystem.
The future does look bright. Can’t wait to write a reflection piece 10 years from now!