Everyone in the health sector is excited about how technology might be able to revolutionise treatment and care of patients over the next few years. Here, we highlight five areas that we believe are going to be the hottest areas of activity.
As concern over waiting times for appointments at hospitals and with GPs grows, and healthcare looks for new ways to improve coverage of patient care and reduce costs, telemedicine is seen having huge potential.
In its simplest form, this can be using Skype, Facetime or another simple video link to connect the patient a professional. This approach is already being used to good effect, as this story about Marple Cottage Surgery, shows. At its most sophisticated it could mean an expert in a particular field diagnosing a patient from the other wide of the world. According to Statista, the total number of telehealth patients worldwide was already set to reach seven million this year and that figure is only going to grow, so this is a good areas to get involved in right now.
Wearables and IoMT
Using wearables and linking them to mobile devices that communicate back to health professionals is another area of massive potential. The immense and growing popularity of fitness trackers produced by FitBit and other vendors shows just how much potential there is here. In the US, the use of wearable and also of IoT devices is already in full swing – there are already 3.7 million connected medical devices in use and various websites and publications now start to talk about the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT).
All hospitals are now implementing WiFi everywhere, so the potential for connecting patients up and monitoring them is growing all the time. The concept of smart hospitals that are more or less totally dependent on IoT devices and digital systems is now being taken very seriously. A report published by Allied Market Research has predicted that the global smart hospitals market was already worth $17 million in 2017 and could grow to almost $59 million by 2025, with more than half of this figure generated by services. In other words, a lot of the work will be done in the cloud
The cloud is the great enabler of transformation and will provide the underlying digital foundation not only for smart hospitals but also for the growth in use of analytics, sharing of data and images and telemedicine. In short, it’s the key to the transformation in healthcare.
By making use of the cloud, medical records and information can be made much more readily available, and with limitless scalability, there is no issue with storing all the X-rays, scans, records and notes on every patient. There may be some regulatory issues, but these can be overcome with good security there is also great potential to deliver managed services that will enable healthcare to make the best possible use of the cloud.
Virtual and augmented reality
There is obvious potential for VR and AR in training students and teaching complex surgical procedures, and the technology is also being used as an aid to therapeutic approaches to certain conditions and help patients recover. VR headsets have already been used to help patients with dementia and cognitive problems, and to help people with specific issues, such as agoraphobia.
Similar systems can be used to encourage patients with mobility issues to exercise in the right way
There is research into use of VR for treating autism and similar conditions. They can also be used by professionals to aid diagnosis and care – nurses could be equipped with headsets that will feed patient information to them in real time, for example.
AI and analytics
Artificial intelligence and analytics hold massive potential in health to aid predictive and preventative approaches in particular. The technology is ideal for gathering and analysing massive amounts of data from different sources and identifying the level of risk or probability that, for example, an epidemic is about to break out in a particular area, or that an individual patient is likely to develop a specific problem at some point.
The potential uses of AI in healthcare are extremely wide and varied. It is alreadybeing in robotic-assisted surgery, reducing the time it takes to prepare a patient and perform the operation itself. AI-guided surgery is also less invasive, so reduced recovery time is reduced as well.
AI and analytics are also being used to improve diagnosis. This takes many different forms, such as enabling faster and more accurate examination and processing of images and improve and quicken diagnosis. The complex patterns of an eye, for example, can be scanned and analysed much faster saving time, and improving accuracy of diagnosis and treatments.
In the smart hospitals scenario of the future, AI and analytics would be constantly at work to monitor patients’ condition and alert professionals to meaningful changes.