There has been an acute shortage of skilled professionals in healthcare and the gap continues to grow. The WHO estimates that about 4.3 million physicians, nurses and other health professionals are required to fill the gap globally. In a scenario such as this, healthcare personnel will need the help of technology to keep up with the increasing demand for medical care. Thankfully, new technologies are emerging and evolving to aid skilled healthcare workers to serve patients in better ways. Here are a few that promise to impact healthcare in the future:
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI can process medical records, analyze medical tests, predict healthcare diagnoses, design treatment plans for conditions or help predict and create drugs faster than healthcare professionals. Consumer health applications are already using AI to help people manage a healthy lifestyle through monitoring equipment and sensor based medical devices. In India, AI in the healthcare space is expected to be worth about INR 431 billion by the year 2012 and may reach a doctor-patient ratio of 6.9:1,000 by 2023.
2. Virtual Reality (VR)
Medical training, medical care, disease awareness, and medical campaigns have already found a use for VR technologies. Medical students can view the human body from various angles and are being trained to perform surgical procedures using VR. VR is also being used to treat victims of stroke, in psychiatry, pain management, physical therapy, and telemedicine support.
3. Augmented Reality (AR)
The difference between VR and AR lies in the fact that patients don’t lose touch with reality and AR puts information into eyesight quickly. Surgeons and medical students can use it to prepare themselves well for real-life operations. It can improve access to surgery, medical care, help in medical training, lower healthcare costs, assist physicians, empower patients to self-diagnose, and help enhance psychotherapy and physiotherapy.
4. Healthcare Trackers, Wearables and Sensors
Self-health tracking is catching on as a trend in the healthcare industry, and tech applications, wearable devices, and sensors are allowing people to monitor and manage their health like never before. Data tracked by these devices can further be used by physicians to diagnose and treat patients better. Physicians and nurses can use wearables to monitor patients at regular intervals to increase efficiency and lower time to get health data. The FDA in 2017 approved a pill with a sensor, the first of its kind that can track whether patients have swallowed it. The sensor transmits information to a mobile app via a wearable patch.
5. Genome Sequencing
According to a report published in the journal PloS Biology, researchers say that by 2025, between 100 million and 2 billion human genomes may have been sequenced. This may help genomics bring personalized drugs, and individualized treatments and DNA-based targeted treatments to healthcare. The costs for genome sequencing are declining rapidly, which makes it possible to sequence the whole genome of a person and use the information to treat conditions.
In healthcare, nanotechnology can help in the development of drug delivery systems, and aid in various biomedical applications. These applications can significantly improve the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, illness, injury, and any other physical and mental disorders. It also has other uses like fitness monitoring, diagnosis, and prevention of diseases. It can enable diagnosis at a cellular as well as sub-cellular level with high-performance sensors and enhanced imaging techniques.
Robots can help in filling in for medical personnel for monotonous and routine tasks. Robotic medical assistants help with the monitoring of vital statistics of several patients at once and alert physicians when they need help. They assist in surgery, are used to disinfect rooms, take blood samples, replace human workers, carry meals, ride elevators and help in physical therapy, personal care, and socialization.
3D-printing technology can help in reducing healthcare costs and is set to revolutionize the healthcare industry. It can aid in the development of personalized prosthetics that can be customized for each user. It can be used in the fields of bioprinting and tissue engineering, like building organoids with stem cells and help in replacing whole organs. It can also be used to create 3d-printed skin for burn victims, by using biological ink containing human plasma as well as material extracts in half an hour.
9. Big Data for Medical Records
Big data taken from various sources like electronic health records (EHRs), genomic sequencing, medical imaging, payor records, medical devices, pharmaceutical research, and wearables can be used for decision making. With technological improvements, big data is being converted to useful and actionable information and be used by providers, caregivers, and health administrators to make better medical and financial decisions.
Blockchain technology enables the management of patient data and helps in tracking drugs through supply chains. By this, it can solve the healthcare industry’s problems like inefficiencies, errors, bureaucracy, and high administrative costs, with just one single record, that doesn’t differ across databases. It allows for a transparent, peer-managed, secure data tracking across many devices. The use of blockchain can completely transform business models, processes and information flow in healthcare.
Digital technologies are rapidly shaping the future of healthcare and to keep up with them, the healthcare industry must be up to date with the latest developments to be able to control technology.