Technology is constantly acting as a disruptor in healthcare. In the last few years, the disruption has been at a very rapid rate as technology companies work to solve medical problems with high-level tech solutions.
“If you’re in healthcare and not paying attention to the tech invasion, I fear you may be under intensive care yourself soon.” Sunny Bindra on Three Bells Issue #98
Today’s healthcare industry faces many hurdles that are driving up costs. Political and economic uncertainty, an ageing population, and a growing prevalence of chronic diseases are all contributing factors in the global push to find more cost-effective healthcare solutions.
Here are some of the trends to watch out for in 2018:
3D Printing: Game changer for organ or tissue repair
3D printing technology has enormous potential in healthcare due to its ability to be customized. Customization can dramatically reduce surgery times and medical expenses. Currently, the largest applications are 3D-printed scaffolds or prosthetics (orthopaedic implants) and medical devices, such as dental implants and hearing aids. The game changer for 3D printing will be in human tissue printing: printed livers, hearts, ears, hands and eyes, or building the smallest functional units of tissues, which can lead to the fabrication of large tissues and organs. This can be used as surgical grafts to repair or replace the damaged tissues and organs.
From fitness bands to smartwatches to Google Glass, wearables are being widely adopted by consumers. Interestingly enough, professionals are more open to using wearables than consumers, especially professionals in the healthcare industry. People may argue that this is a concern for the insurance industry but the truth of the matter is that both parties will be affected in one way or another. Doctors are increasingly adopting the trend. Google Smart Glasses has been tested by various doctors. These glasses have been used to perform X-rays directly in your field without having to leave the operation room. For patients, wearables basically provide a database for their bodies given the masses of data collected on a daily basis from these devices.
Artificial Intelligence and Big Data
Big data is king in the digital world, and health care is no exception. Yes, it can be gathered to measure customer satisfaction. But perhaps more importantly, it can be used to automatically identify risk factors and recommend preventative treatment. Even more exciting: with the rise of the Internet of (Medical) Things (IoMT), mobile and wearable devices are increasingly connected, working together to create a cohesive medical report accessible anywhere by your health care provider. This data is not just useful for the patient. It can be pooled and studied en masse to predict healthcare trends for entire cultures and countries.
All of the above have led to an entirely new trend in healthcare: patient empowerment. While many of us have come to associate health care with high costs and long waits, patients are now in the driver’s seat, with better access to higher-quality doctors, and higher satisfaction rates overall. It’s a healthy new way to look at healthcare and one that holds promise for all of us with easy access to the digital landscape. My blood pressure is already lowering just imagining the possibilities.
Sequencing Genomes At Home
Genomics and truly personalized medicine to enable us to receive therapy individually customized to our own genetic background. I own a huge text file containing my DNA data. I can take it to my doctor and hope to receive personalized drugs instead of the blockbusters that are manufactured for millions of people even though we are all genetically and metabolically different. The cost of DNA sequencing is dropping constantly. When it’s finally available to the majority the whole concept of prescribing medication will change. Pharma needs to get ready for the transformation so it can offer solutions to all.