Technology is advancing at breakneck speeds. Along with it, so are countless other innovations that continue to shape our lives for the better.
And as always, healthcare continues to be at the forefront of technological advancement.
That’s why we decided to take the time today to talk about some of the most innovative emerging technology currently re-shaping and revolutionizing the healthcare industry.
Where We Stand Today
Built off mid-19th-century practices, the present-day healthcare system is essentially a sickcare system.
Of course, there has been a tremendous amount of progress in medicine. But care delivery hasn’t changed very much in the past several hundred years.
Essentially, we still use very basic healthcare, where sick or acutely ill people need to seek out medically trained professionals to address their symptoms. The current system was never built to deal with the proliferation of chronic disease, which today represents more than 80% of all healthcare expenditures around the world.
The problem with this system is that when a person gets sick, they usually end up waiting until their symptoms are severe enough before seeing a physician.
Then, they might need to schedule an appointment with a specialist, undergo testing, wait for the results, and then finally receive the necessary treatment.
And as you may already know, this process can take a long time, exacerbating the patient’s situation, and putting strain on the entire healthcare system.
What Improvements Could Be Made?
Today’s healthcare landscape would be a very different creature if we took a simple lesson from what consumer industries have taught us in the past.
This would mean getting more involved in health and prevention, rather than simply treating sickness and disease. We could coach people on their good and bad habits, putting an emphasis on all aspects that pertain to their health, including medication schedules and diet.
Rather than being based on reacting to sickness and disease, the system needs to be geared at proactively keeping people well.
So without further ado, let’s dive into the new types of technology that are revolutionizing the healthcare industry as we know it.
Wearable Tech and Artificial Intelligence
Wearable devices are another rapidly growing market that’s been taking the world by storm. Almost every tech company out there, from Apple to Samsung, has some sort of wearable devices that can be paired with your smartphone or tablet.
These devices are already being used to track biometrics such as heart rate, blood pressure, and activity level. So it isn’t all that much of a stretch until doctors and healthcare providers start using them to measure and track their patients’ health.
Essentially, we could be using these devices to establish a 24/7 connection between patient and doctor.
Patients with chronic disease live with their conditions all day, every day. So why shouldn’t our healthcare system reflect that?
All the patient would have to do is wear the device and ensure that it is paired with a smartphone or tablet and connected to the internet. Then, their doctors would be able to keep an eye on their health, no matter where they are in the world.
Researchers are also looking to develop artificial intelligence (AI) software that could be paired with these devices. These AI interfaces would be able to receive streamlined data from the patient’s device in real-time, monitoring their biometrics for any unexpected changes.
Then, if the AI system senses that something is wrong, it would be able to notify the patient’s healthcare provider.
Robotics in Healthcare
Since 2000, robotics have been used to undertake minimally invasive surgery, which has helped patients recover much faster.
Today, doctors and healthcare professionals continue to use robotics to assist with surgery and continually refine the precision of their surgical procedures.
Another area where robotic technology is expected to see a boom in robotic rehabilitation.
For example, robotics manufacturers in Japan have already developed a care robot to help nurses with a range of tasks such as lifting patients, standing them, helping them walk, and just generally helping patients improve the quality of their lives.
Elsewhere, a robot called Xenex has been developed by the Houston Technology Center to help fight superbugs in hospitals and medical care facilities around the world.
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
Both VR and AR have a massive range of potential healthcare applications.
Virtual reality, for example, is used to create a fully-simulated and immersive environment via a headset. Whereas, augmented reality is used to add digital elements to reality through, let’s say, your smartphone’s camera.
In fact, according to BisResearch.com, we should expect to see a major boom for VR and AR tech in the healthcare industry. This growth is expected to be driven mainly by an increasing need for high-precision surgery, which could be achieved using AR-based technology.
AR could be used to allow doctors and nurses gather invaluable information about their patients, as well as being able to present it in 3D.
For example, imagine a doctor using a 3D image of their patient’s body. This tech could then be used to allow the doctor to view the patient’s anatomical structure, helping them plan a surgery, while also being able to minimize the risks.
VR and AR could be used in training doctors and surgeons using 3D representations of the human body.
We could even go one step further and use these technologies to help educate patients about their bodies, what’s wrong with them, and what will happen during surgery. Although education would be the main purpose of this application, it would also help to put patients’ minds at ease.
Additionally, VR can also be used to help treat patients with mental illnesses such as PTSD and anxiety.
VR exposure therapy is used to target a patient’s negative behavior, such as avoidance, by allowing them to actively confront the things that cause said behavior. The goal of this is to minimize the patient’s fear, and eventually, eliminating their negative avoidance behavior.
Next Generation Sequencing (NGS)
A genome sequence is unique to each and every single person on this planet.
Genome sequencing allows us to isolate an entire set of DNA and its associated genes. This can provide invaluable information about a person’s physiology, their susceptibility to certain illnesses, and their reaction to certain drugs.
Next-generation sequencing, or NGS, is a rapidly advancing technology that allows researchers to easily map the human genome to identify any issues, develop treatment, and learn more about the disease.
This could radically revolutionize our current healthcare system and lead to fully-personalized treatment based on our genetic background, rather than solely on our symptoms.
According to GlobalNewsWire.com, the NGS market is expected to grow to a massive $9.91 billion by the year 2024.
Not only can genetic analysis improve treatment, it can also improve preventative medicine as well.
For example, researchers have isolated a breast cancer gene known as BRCA1. People who carry this gene are susceptible to developing breast cancer. Therefore, the disease can be said to be more common in families that carry this genetic mutation.
But if doctors are able to screen their patients for this gene, they can advise certain precautions and lifestyle changes to help reduce the risk of developing the disease.
Tiny microscopic particles, known as nanoparticles, can be used by doctors and healthcare providers in all sorts of ways to provide treatment to their patients.
In the future, nanotechnology will be used to treat illnesses on an extremely small scale, providing incredibly precise results, and minimizing the need for invasive surgery.
The technology could also be used for improved imaging of the human body.
For example, nanoparticles could be created with built-in sensors and be injected into the body. These would be able to detect microscopic changes in molecular signals and could possibly identify the presence of a disease in the body.
It’s expected that nanotechnology will be most useful in certain medical fields, such as cancer treatment, where early detection is key to increasing survival rates.
Furthermore, this tech could also be used to revolutionize certain treatments.
For example, chemotherapy is often accompanied by a wide range of side-effects. This is often due to the treatments inability to precisely target cancer cells. Instead, chemotherapy usually damages and kills healthy cells, on top of the damaged ones.
Nanotechnology could be perfected so that doctor could specifically target mutated cells, allowing for incredibly accurate treatment of the disease, while also reducing side-effects.
To conclude, recent developments in technology have been staggering. And when these technological advancements are applied to the healthcare industry, the potential to improve our health and well-being becomes practically infinite.
From robotic rehabilitation and virtual reality, to next-generation sequencing and nanotechnology, we’re already well on our way to the future of healthcare and medicine.
And elsewhere, around the world, countless other technological advancements are being developed in the healthcare industry, which will deliver improved diagnostics and treatment to patients suffering from severe illness and disease.
After giving up his career as an ironworker in 2016, Joel began pursuing work as a freelance writer and editor. He has since written thousands of blog posts for brands all around the world and currently manages his own content agency, The Hobo Marketing Co.