Like every other aspect of our lives, technology is rapidly changing and entirely reshaping healthcare systems all over the world. These days, with the advent of sophisticated new technologies, a doctor or surgeon doesn’t even have to be in the same room or operating theatre to consult or perform a procedure.
But are we going to end up with armies of robot doctors, surgeons and nurses, or will technology take a more backseat role in healthcare while human medical professionals remain firmly in charge? In this article, we look at some of the latest innovations that technology is enabling in the world of healthcare and what it could mean for doctors and patients alike.
Artificial intelligence are the buzzwords of our time. Many fear the onslaught it may have on many aspects of our lives, even threatening to take over them entirely. While AI is certainly still an emerging field, it may have the potential to totally disrupt healthcare as it is now and bring about whole new levels of patient care and procedures. Already, AI algorithms are being deployed to come up with new and more effective drugs, and much faster than humans ever could.
Atomwise is one company engaged in this area, with the goal of “better medicines faster”. It gives a stark example of the battle against the feared and highly fatal Ebola virus that has claimed tens of thousands of lives in recent decades. “Atomwise discovered a drug candidate with no previous antiviral application that blocked Ebola infectivity across virus strains from multiple epidemics,” the San Francisco-based company says.
Along with this comes the growing trend towards augmented reality and its applications in all kinds of sectors, including healthcare. This rising technology differs from virtual reality in that users are not encased in a virtual world, but remain in their same physical location and are aided by information displayed via a headset.
Augmented reality allows medical professionals to get instant snapshots of patients, via X-Ray and other scans, as well as in determining what kind of medications are most effective for a particular condition. Companies seeking pharmaceutical market access could potentially better leverage their offerings to medical institutions by providing more innovative and dynamic drug information.
Many people are now aware of wearable technology, and the concept of using various devices for beneficial activities such as fitness programs. Wearables are also making the move into the healthcare industry, with many health trackers and sensors becoming available to medical professionals and patients. There is now even a new brain-sensing headband people can wear that allows them to “elevate [their] meditation experience” — although at €300 apiece, this new mind-calming tool may not be for everyone.
These kinds of devices “should provide accurate, reliable, real-time data, and data transmission capabilities without requiring the user to have expertise in wearable sensing or communications technology. Soft, flexible, stretchable sensing materials will be comfortable for the user,” notes one industry analyst.
Next in our examination of how tech is changing healthcare is the much-trumpeted field of nanotechnology. Imagine legions of miniscule robots swimming through a patient’s system, looking for any anomalies that might give rise to diseases — and fixing the problem before it has a chance to develop. It may seem like the stuff of science fiction, but nanotechnology is fast becoming science fact.
“Especially in the field of immunotherapy of cancer, nanomedicine offers a big chance,” said Professor Dr Stephan Grabbe of the Mainz University Medical Center in Germany, at the opening of a Center for Translational Nanomedicine in Mainz.
These and more innovations in healthcare are fast approaching the phase of becoming a realistic factor in the health industry, and impacting pharmaceutical market access. They promise to transform patient care and procedures as we currently know them, and may will lead to a world of vastly improved lives for many.