It’s possible that healthcare is the sector experiencing the biggest transformation, in the wake of the technological revolution.
From the way patients receive information, through to diagnosis and treatment, technology is providing giant steps forward. It is literally saving countless lives, as well as improving people’s ability to “live well” with major health issues. Technology is even providing an authentic promise of cures for major diseases.
Artificial intelligence, robotics, Big Data, improved connectivity, Cloud systems and interactive touchscreen technology are all playing their role in improving the way healthcare is managed, delivered and advanced.
An improved ability to collect and share data – leading to better control and collaboration – is currently the most widespread and firmly entrenched technological trend in healthcare.
Moving from paper to digital records has been a game changer.
But the communications improvements provided by technology are not only in terms of health care professionals pooling knowledge and integrating diagnosis and treatment better.
It all starts with providing the general public with important preventative information. If they can manage their lifestyles and health issues independently, it goes a long way to relieving the burden on the overstretched healthcare providers.
Communication can also alleviate anxiety and help patients to feel more confident in explaining their symptoms or dealing with their prognosis. Information can help them to feel more in control of their situation. Improved communication helps to show that their opinion and queries are of value. From this, comes greater willingness to address health issues with professionals.
More connective technology and quicker broadband have provided patients with access to improved communication opportunities. For example, interactive touch screens such as those especially configured for healthcare applications.
Interactive technology is being used in waiting rooms, hospital foyers and other public places, to provide patients with a degree of control over the information they access. It can also reduce the time staff need to spend on more mundane and repetitive tasks, such as checking people in.
Healthcare communication is also improving with the greater control and management of data, creating a far more joined up system of administration and swifter turn-round of test results.
Diagnosis and Monitoring
This type of healthcare technology is gaining a strong foothold in 2019.
Wearable technology has passed quickly from a fitness “gimmick” to a genuinely beneficial tool for measuring and monitoring health issues. It also offers huge potential to save the healthcare industry time and money.
There are already devices in use that enable patients to update healthcare professionals on their status, incorporating two-way cameras for “virtual” consultations. They also integrate with systems to monitor such things as blood pressure and blood oxygenation.
Sometimes referred to as telemedicine or telehealth, this advancement has found its natural home in fields such as cardiovascular healthcare. This is because it enables the transmission of healthcare data such as electrocardiograms (ECGs), leading to swift intervention for life-threatening health issues.
This healthcare technology also supports better quality – and more reactive – monitoring and care for the elderly. They can live independently but have their health status monitored around the clock, from remote locations. This too has huge potential to save lives.
Some of the developments in diagnosis and monitoring of illness have seen small incremental improvements. This includes the ability of doctors to view x-rays and test results on portable devices at hospital bedsides.
Another healthcare technology trend that has gained ground recently, is the use of mobile apps. These are now available to manage medication, support fitness and weight control, and tackle the symptoms of specific male and female health issues; to name but a few.
This is possibly the least developed, but the most exciting way in which technology is transforming healthcare. But the steps forward are certainly tangible in 2019.
Virtual reality – previously a gaming enhancement – is another development that has earned new respect and credibility as a healthcare tool in recent times. Its value in treating phobias is being fully explored in the US. Both Virtual and Augmented Reality are being applied to rehabilitation projects.
There is also work underway to use mobile apps to assist patients with mental health issues to develop coping mechanisms and improve their resilience.
Healthcare technology trends connected to the treatment of illnesses also include ever increasing application of the Internet of Things to monitor and control medical interventions. The number of hospitals globally who use IoT to devices is growing exponentially.
There are already successful trials underway to use IoT implants to monitor such conditions as diabetes and relay findings to mobile phones. Automated drug administration connected to internal sensors is also being fully explored.
According to Grand View Research, by 2022 the healthcare industry will have invested £300bn in IoT devices and services.
The ultimate aim of technology in the healthcare field is to find cures for its biggest enemies, particularly cancer.
Tech giants have set their stall out in recent years, vowing to use their tremendous power to gather, sort and analyse Big Data for the good of humanity.
The potential to map and understand the disease is growing enormously. With it comes ever increasing speed in creating pathways for interventions. From this exciting strand of healthcare technology, new and improved treatments will surely flow.
Despite the exciting advances made in healthcare as a result of emerging technology, it’s clear we are only skimming the surface of what is possible.
From interactive displays, greater connectivity and improved integration, we will see ever-widening systems to maintain, track and share health history. And to support preventive and health management information.
One of the most significant healthcare technology trends going forward is the use of Augmented Reality to open up our view of the human anatomy to its most intricate level. This will include the potential to superimpose 3D and CAT scans over a patient while they are on the operating table, to provide the surgeon with invaluable insights.
Diagnosis will become more readily available remotely, freeing doctors up to dispense services that require a physical presence. It is not too big of a stretch to imagine surgeons performing procedures using robotic equipment, without being in the building.
IoT implants – and more wearable devices – will be able to not only monitor our physiology but also apply AI to administering medicine.
And professional assistance will be available, at the touch of a button – virtually or literally.