The medical technology has advanced significantly since eyeglasses and stethoscopes were invented. The proliferation of mobile internet, the expansion of affluent middle classes, and the aging global population are all driving change in healthcare, and its associated technology is evolving at an accelerated pace. A report by the World Economic Forum estimates that by 2030, more than one billion people will need retraining in medical technology.
Some of the most interesting new medical technologies need to be used together, and integrated efforts are already underway to do so. Forward Medical and One Medical are examples of tech-inspired clinics that use technology to give providers a more personalized approach to patient care. The innovations don’t stop there.
During the Covid-19 pandemics of 2020 and 2021, several promising medical technologies were tested on an unprecedented scale. Those technologies are still relevant in 2022, but how can they work together in the post-pandemic world?
MONITORING PATIENTS FROM A DISTANCE
A physician can now monitor the status of a patient without physically being present thanks to remote patient monitoring (RPM). The advantages of RPM include better patient outcomes, faster response times, and substantial cost savings over time. Telemedicine and RPM work hand in hand to reduce travel for patients and protect everyone from exposure.
The Covid-19 pandemic led to changes in Medicare that approved various forms of RPM for reimbursement, making this new technology more widespread.
The company Prevalence, which sells medical software, estimates that in 2022 some 234,000 patients will have used remote patient monitoring. Blood pressure, weight, heart rate, and blood sugar were the most common types of monitoring administered without a visit to an office or a lab.
Spyglass Consulting Group conducted a survey and found that 88 percent of healthcare providers had already invested in or were considering adding RPM to their practice.
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare takes many forms. Machine learning will be used primarily in healthcare in the year 2022 to evaluate large amounts of patient data and other information. A programmer can create tailor-made algorithms to mimic human thought, and write programs that can appear to think, learn, make decisions, and act.
No, this does not mean that robots will deliver medical care automatically. Physicians may, however, receive suggestions for diagnoses, medications, and treatment plans based on the medical records, histories, and current symptoms of a patient. The final word will always rest with the physicians, but they will have access to the information.
Overall, healthcare leaders can benefit from analyzing healthcare data in this thorough and comprehensive manner by reducing costs, improving patient outcomes, and boosting employee satisfaction.
THERAPEUTICS IN DIGITAL FORMAT
Doctors often need to provide ongoing care to patients with chronic illnesses. The patient may be educated, monitored for symptoms, have medication adjusted, and have behavioral changes. In addition to being costly, this care takes a lot of time, both for the medical staff and the patients. Thankfully, a new class of digital therapies can assist in filling this gap.
In the case of digital therapeutics, a doctor prescribes them to a patient for their particular medical condition. A patient can access sophisticated software programs through apps on his or her smartphone or via a computer. All medications must undergo randomized clinical trials, the same as other medications. Diabetes type I and type II, cancer, anxiety, musculoskeletal pain, ADHD, asthma, migraines, insomnia, and substance abuse are a few of the medical conditions that are well-suited to digital therapeutics.
The applications provide information about a patient’s well-being to their doctor when they use them. Patients can be monitored more closely and problems can be identified earlier without having to attend appointments on a regular basis.
THE TECHNOLOGY OF MENTAL HEALTH
Recent developments in technology have made it possible to address mental health needs of patients in an ongoing way. Despite the need for clinicians to complete most assessments and initial treatments, patients can now utilize additional tools to improve their mental health between appointments.
As mentioned above, digital therapeutics are uniquely suited to providing ongoing mental health care of a high standard. There are now many apps that are capable of completing patient intakes and providing an initial diagnosis even before a patient consults with a physician. The cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a traditional method of therapy that is widely used in digital therapeutics to help patients change their behavior. This method is effectively used in conjunction with virtual or in-person therapy.
In addition to the use of video games for mental health, a new technology is being utilized recently. EndeavorRX, the first only prescription video game available for children ages eight to 12, was recently approved by the FDA. The majority of participants in clinical studies reported an improved ability to focus after just one month of treatment without experiencing any adverse effects.
The Internet of Medical Things
As part of the internet of things, physical objects are connected to the internet through an invisible network. The topic includes new technologies for the healthcare industry, such as remote patient monitoring, 5G-enabled devices, and wearable sensors. As more than 500,000 devices become web-enabled, the ability to share accurate and latest patient information becomes increasingly important.
Intelligent medical devices will be able to network with other smart devices around them as technologies and software continue to improve. Physicians will be able to monitor patients’ health holistically and in a systematic manner in the future. FitBits, for example, are found to be more reliable at measuring physical activity and more accurate at assessing risk of death over a five-year period than more traditional methods. It’s simply a matter of making the data the patient already has available.
SURGERY BY ROBOTS
Since the 1980s, robots have been making an impact on health care, but as the technology behind them has improved, so have the applications. A nanobot can diagnose diseases and prevent them from occurring. The use of exoskeletons in physical therapy can help counteract mobility disabilities. Nevertheless, robotic surgery may be the most prominent (and multi-armed) application of 2019.
Compared to traditional surgery, robotic surgery is a minimally invasive, highly precise, less infection-prone, and faster healing procedure. Today, image-guided robots can examine the brain for lesions without damaging its surrounding organs. Humans cannot shape a bone to fit an artificial part as precisely as they can. There are already 200,000 robotic operations per year using the da Vinci surgical system. However, with the advent of superfast 5G, remote surgery will soon be available, and what once was considered a novelty will soon become a standard practice.
Computing on a quantum scale
Though quantum computing is still in its infancy, researchers have already successfully used it in conjunction with machine learning to identify medical tools and annotations during cataract surgery, the most common surgery in the world. There is still much potential to be realized in quantum computing, but past performance has spurred substantial optimism for medical imaging, genomics, and drug discovery.
It may soon be possible to evaluate all the possible outcomes of extremely complex scenarios, such as comparing drugs and their interactions, as well as more quickly and cheaply sequencing human genomes. Such discoveries generate enormous amounts of data, which can be quantum-computationally computed for further research. As a means of familiarizing themselves with the format and capabilities of quantum computing, some tech giants like IBM are offering quantum cloud computing.
Even so, real applications and heavy lifting will require considerable investment and development. In 2019, quantum computing is not expected to achieve any significant gains, but there will be a lot of investment and boardroom discussion about it.
THINGS ON THE INTERNET (IOT)
Medical facilities are bursting with gizmos and teeming with data, but the internet of things (IoT) is allowing all of those elements to work together, and the results are already showing. Through a partnership with GE Healthcare and an IoT software called AutoBed, Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City reduced emergency room wait times by 50 percent. Up to 80 requests for beds can be processed at a time, solving the puzzle of who gets placed where and when. By using nurse proximity, granular demographics, and more than a dozen other metrics to better assess and serve patients, it does so with greater efficiency and transparency than would be possible for staff members.
The Internet of Things can also be used to monitor and alert a facility’s medical technology when it fails or is about to fail, such as e-Alert, a Philips product used to monitor the performance of MRI systems. It is possible to put in place a relatively low-intensity failsafe by sending out mobile updates and performance reports. The result is a savings in time and money. Additionally, IoT can be used to track staff members, patients, devices, and other assets in critical settings. IoT packages from players like Microsoft will be an integral part of medical facilities’ infrastructure as they offer enterprise-level healthcare IoT packages.