Originally published on droidmen.com
Healthcare is on the cusp of a digital revolution powered by technological developments across several fields as a result of new workflows, data gathering, and hardware innovation. Over the next five to ten years, expect digitization to rapidly transform much of the health industry, from in-person patient care to remote diagnosis Still, medical advancements are part of the game, so why is now different? Frankly, apart from dedicated medical staff, technology is the primary force behind the influential trends and transformative curves of change sweeping the industry. Much of its strength resides in accessibility via digitization and miniaturization. Visual tech, especially, is helping lead the way in virtual medicine. As more providers, medical units, and patients adopt and embrace the new tech, shortcomings of the current system will slowly diminish.
In this article, Joel Arun Sursas, Health Informatician and Medical Doctor reviews the radical transformation within the healthcare industry as well as prospective milestones in medical science as a result of emerging technologies.
Digitization & Mobility
As external bureaucratic and political pressures threaten to disrupt medical business models, healthcare, though relatively progressive, is yearning for administrative reform and harmony. The opportunity, as well as the challenge, lies within digitization. Not only can digital upgrades improve operational budgets and bottom lines for companies, but it also generates a halo effect that elevates the patient experience, notably in mobility and reach of care.
While healthcare is a dignified industry, it remains a market influenced by consumer demand. And as a result of the internet and smartphones, consumer behavior demands speed, convenience, and accessibility at all times. The culmination of these factors has bolstered the feasibility of Telemedicine as a revenue stream.
Telemedicine allows patients to seek medical care via a digital connection. While a significant number of eligible patients remain wary of this new frontier, the research suggests that Telemedicine, especially utilized in conjunction with a home-based health monitoring device, can improve survival rates and lower hospitalization. This type of healthcare also allows medical professionals to broaden their service of care by nurturing patients in rural areas that might otherwise forego consistent medical attention altogether due to distance and economic restrictions. It also provides a digitized health record synced to a patient’s profile, ideally in a portal, which improves logistical efficiency.
Of course, digitization is quite broad in application, and healthcare is extraordinarily complex, which begs the question: what is driving digital adoption amongst patients? Connecting individuals to medical providers, thanks to global internet infrastructure, is one answer. Technology is another.
To truly personalize medical care, doctors require access to patients’ lifestyles and behaviors that affect their health daily. Decades ago, this would not be possible without a clinical setting; however, it is now a reality thanks to the genius of engineers. Technological advancements in smartphone health applications, wireless connectivity, wearables with miniaturized biometric sensors, and handheld-imaging platforms are already helping reduce healthcare costs, increasing patient engagement and improving treatment and outcomes.
Smaller health sensors that capture metrics such as heart rate, blood pressure, and even oxygen levels allow for more refined hardware designs. If the tech is unsightly or uncomfortable to wear, humans subconsciously reject it on some level and are therefore less likely to wear it, thus diminishing the care. However, health wearables like Fitbit and smartwatches have proven that slick product design can act as an incentive to wear health monitoring devices.
Furthermore, the miniaturization of visual sensors and image capture capabilities may soon allow patients to undergo body scans from the convenience of their own home. Some of the more progressive innovation involves live imaging transmitted from an ingestible camera.
Beyond sensor capabilities, another exciting development is microfluidics. In layman’s terms, it’s a medical lab in the form of a microchip. Microfluidics, like labs, can detect infectious diseases, offer point-of-care tests, provide a diagnosis with a smaller sample size at a faster rate, and lower test costs, which is a major concern for patients that have insurance plans with a high deductible.
Next up, nanobots. It may sound like a talking point out of science fiction, yet it’s being heralded as the future of healthcare. Nanobots are microscopic robots with magnetic nanoparticles programmed by medical practitioners to assist in complex tasks — even surgery.
Patient records contain enormous amounts of information (aka data), and without an adequate digital summary accessible on a computer, extracting meaningful data can be quite archaic.
Digitizing data reduces the demand for physical storage, thus lowering overhead costs, but more importantly, it improves analysis. Wearable devices and digital applications seamlessly record biometric data and can easily be exported to medical offices around the world. Physicians and lab techs can then use computer programs to analyze the data in meaningful ways by simultaneously cross-referencing the patent’s digital summary against decades of medical research. The diagnosis can then be treated with an actionable and more personalized health plan.
The most promising aspect of digitizing a patient’s medical history lies within predictive analytics. This strategic use of data may one day revolutionize preventative healthcare, identifying potential problems and causes for concern weeks or even months before traditional care.
By the end of the decade, it will be more common for a significant portion of patients to receive primary medical care remotely through technology operated by a digital interface rather than at an office. This imminent change is fueled by the digitization of medical science, especially new developments of medical devices that are easy enough to use in a casual home setting and real-time data analytical capabilities. It provides a glimpse of what personalized healthcare can and should be.