Medical advancements have always impacted the world and ultimately lead to massive changes in the health and well being of individuals. For instance, in 1796 Edward Jenner introduced the smallpox vaccine, it was a stepping stone in medicine and the first successful vaccine to be developed. Today, smallpox has been totally eradicated all over the globe. The next huge medical advancement is set to be in the realm of digital transformation. Even the NHS has a long term plan involving healthcare digital transformation.
Digital transformation in healthcare is a process of utilizing the most effective digital technology in different aspects of the healthcare service that results in increased value to patients in terms of their overall health and wellbeing. Emerging technologies that will change the face of modern healthcare include artificial intelligence, telemedicine, blockchain, virtual reality, wearable devices, the internet of things, the cloud, digital health tools, the digital twin, and cybersecurity.
If you have ever used Google Translate or Google Maps then you have definitely interacted with artificial intelligence. It is built on a series of examples given to a computer, this is called the input. Then there are also examples of certain results that are called the output. Through this type of machine learning, the computer can make its own choices of outputs based on the inputs it has received. There is a more complex version of this called deep learning.
How does this affect the field of medicine? Well, there are already artificial intelligence health programs. There are programs that analyze x-rays to find diseases like pneumonia or bone factures by comparing them from the inputs gathered from thousands of radiologists. Some radiologists even say Artificial intelligence can find patterns in data that humans cannot see.
Artificial intelligence isn’t only limited to medical imaging rather, the scope of innovative ideas for the application of this technology in the medical field is so vast! There are plans to use it for the production of more effective medicines, better diagnostics, improved gene editing, and personalized healthcare.
A digital twin allows healthcare providers to examine the what-if scenario with different procedures without having to involve the patient. Therefore, this affords doctors with a safe environment where a digital copy of the patient or sample the patient’s cells can help in experimenting with information from databases and provide greater insights.
For patients, Telemedicine should mean more convenient and accessible healthcare. They can even get the needed assistance when they are far away from the healthcare center. Some telemedicine services can be accessed 24 hours per day. Patients usually enjoy telemedicine call up after they have met the healthcare provider on a prior visit.
Telemedicine allows doctors to follow up with their patients and create long-term relationships with them no matter where they may be. As technology develops and patients become keener, such virtual visits will become more commonplace.
Virtual reality and augmented reality technologies are already being used currently in training doctors and also for patient care. Virtual reality programs can combine medical imaging scans such as X-rays, MRIs and CTs to construct a 3D image which surgeons use as a map before going into the operating theatre this leads to better outcomes and fewer complications.
Cardiologists use augmented reality to train for heart surgeries. Virtual reality can also assist psychiatric patients to overcome their phobias and anxieties through protected exposure. It has even been projected that these same technologies can assist Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients by helping them dive into their past memories. The applications of this type of digital transformation are also numerous.
Patients who utilize digital health tools often make progress faster than those who don’t. These patients track their sleep patterns, physical activity, and drugs with digital health apps and even wearables. Digital health tools are only getting more advanced, even now some generate reports that can be sent to your doctor.
Wearable devices are electronic devices that consumers can wear on their bodies. These are designed to collect the realtime data of the user’s personal health, exercise, and general wellbeing. Wearable devices such as the Apple Watch or Fitbits have become more common over recent years so while they may seem like nothing new, their applications are improving daily. The data gotten from these wearable devices can be used especially in preventive medicine.
Wearable devices aren’t only limited to smartwatches. In 2019, Omron Healthcare released the HeartGuide which became the first wearable blood pressure monitor that also measures metrics such as steps taken, distance traveled, and calories burned. Philips also designed a wearable biosensor that is a self-adhesive patch. This biosensor is able to track movements, heart rate respiratory rate, and temperature.
The Internet of things in an ecosystem of connected devices. It usually just referred to as IoT.
In our healthcare centers, this interconnectivity can give healthcare workers an overall view of the patient’s health status. In the near future, there will be IoT devices that will be collecting data from medical devices such as portable X-Ray machines, EKG machines, IV pumps, and other devices and directly transferring this combined and analyzed data to a doctor’s computer.
Cloud technology could be really beneficial for the healthcare industry. It seems though that the need for making the data secure is maintaining the current resistance of healthcare institutions to fully use their cloud networks. It is estimated that by 2022 most healthcare organizations will transfer most of their data to the cloud and would rely less on paper. This due to the GDPR law, and improved cybersecurity systems.
Many people think of blockchain in terms of cryptocurrency but blockchain has numerous applications beyond its cryptocurrency origins. In healthcare, it can provide patients with secure data, improve supply chain within the hospital network, improve interoperability issues, and ultimately facilitate effective healthcare recordkeeping. This will improve how patient records are transferred between hospitals, insurance companies, and patients while establishing the needed data protection factors and dealing with security concerns.
Cybersecurity is needed for any of the advancements listed above to function properly especially as more third-party companies get involved. Better cybersecurity systems are being developed in line with the GDPR law which will keep the patient’s sensitive healthcare data safe.