The pace at which new mobile devices, apps and operating systems are developing is increasing faster than ever before. From new mobile phones to wearable and ingestible devices – technology is becoming a natural extension of ourselves. Technology makes our life easier, and that’s why we let it help us in our day to day pursuits. By 2030, the very nature of disease will be further disrupted by technology, with many being able to control their conditions through the use of cutting-edge technology devices. The fourth industrial revolution will ensure that humans live longer and healthier lives, and it is likely hospitals will cease being a one-stop shop for all patients.
Hence it comes as no surprise that doctors today are using consumer apps such as Snapchat to speed up patient feedback. If implemented securely, this technology could revolutionise healthcare. Below, we’re looking at three innovations that can have a longstanding impact on the industry.
For the past few years, we’ve seen wearables move beyond hype to become a mainstream healthcare application for monitoring of patients and individuals. Though still in their infancy, usage is rising and the richness of data being collected is building at pace, meaning these devices will soon go from monitoring our health to helping actually prevent health problems before they escalate.
For example, a fitness device can pinpoint if your heart rate is higher than usual while physical activity stays low – this can be an indicator that you are coming down with a flu or infectious diseases.
Moreover, there are a number of chronic diseases that can be better handled with the help of a fitness device. At least 21 studies are examining how the Fitbit activity tracker could be used to help make cystic fibrosis patients healthier, to diagnose and treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, to help teens stop smoking, and more.
The global market for wearables is expected to reach $612 billion in the next eight years, according to a new report. Thus these will be a cost effective way to provide precise data about an individual’s health or health condition.
But there is more to wearables than this. Healthcare professionals are facing a growing need to gather more and more data to enhance their practices and provide a more coordinated and efficient healthcare delivery. Wearables have the potential to provide this much-needed data and ensure patients receives personalised care. This can make a difference in saving someone’s life or increasing life expectancy.
Another example is genomics – this branch of molecular biology that maps human genomes has already yielded tailored treatments for diseases such as hepatitis C and cancer. It also has the power to change how drugs are discovered as members of the pharmaceutical industry integrate genetic information into the process.
With a number of major pharmaceutical giants such as Glaxosmithkline, Merck and Novartis eyeing genomics as the ‘next big thing’, there is no doubt that one day we’ll be able to turn off faulty genes and prevent some illnesses entirely. De facto, England’s chief medical officer Sally Davies said she wants genome sequencing to become as mainstream as blood tests in five years. She even added that policymakers and businesses should look to transform what she described as Britain’s “cottage industry” in genomics into a world-leading player.
Besides medical benefits, this technique could greatly reduce healthcare costs. In the near future, doctors are expected to be able not only to control a condition, but also cure it. For instance, it is hoped genomics will soon be able to produce a cure of HIV. The implications this can have on both our individual lives and healthcare system are enormous.
Remote consulting or telehealth
Remote consulting is another technology-enabled solution that provides affordable and accessible healthcare. Video consultations between patients and clinicians are now becoming technically possible and increasingly acceptable. They are being introduced in some settings alongside, and occasionally replacing, face-to-face or telephone consultations. There is a misconception that all medical cases need to be seen by a doctor - some diagnosis do not require a face-to-face meeting, and this could free up a lot of time for doctors to focus on more urgent cases, or patients who require more attention.
On top of that, long waiting times have hampered the healthcare system for many years. Telehealth can be a gamechanger in areas as diverse as pathology, surgery and radiology. Doctors don’t have to see everyone face-to-face on every single occasion, especially after a diagnosis is established. Even today, there already are surgeons who use robotics to assist, or GPs consulting remotely.
In just a few years, remote consultation can become the new norm – think about people living in remote areas having a Skype consultation, or expat communities receiving psychological consultations over Skype. Technology could reduce the proximity between patients and doctors, opening up the previously unexplored possibility of instantly connecting specialists worldwide with patients who don’t have easy access to a hospital, also significantly reducing waiting time.
The healthcare of tomorrow
Technology offers the ability to revolutionise the healthcare system, and its adoption is somewhat unstoppable. Though it is not the time though to turn a blind eye to the security implications these technological advancements come with. Ensuring patient privacy and data privacy are safeguarded is paramount, and in tandem authorities have to consider ways of getting the right infrastructure in place to support and encourage innovation.
Another important stepping stone is understanding how to leverage collected patient data. Today, companies across various sectors are collecting customer data, but few of those know how to actually use it. In healthcare, patient reported data can help tailored prescriptions and better management of chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Ultimately, incorporating technology in the healthcare industry can lead to better practices and lower bills. By working together with technology specialists, the transition to digital healthcare can be made as smooth as possible.
Darren Hedley, Head of Public Sector, Insight UK
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