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5 Technology Trends in Healthcare
Modern medicine evolves with the help of technology. It is not only about the discoveries themselves, which allowed to extend the average life expectancy in the world to 72 years, but the entire processes of the industry – from data storage, through intelligent devices, controlling patients’ condition, to virtual medical care. What technological trends have the most significant impact on the industry?
The market is slowly adapting to the new opportunities offered by the development of digitization, thus responding to the needs of society. Thanks to these changes, the patient stands in the center, and an essential tool to increase efficiency and customer satisfaction is the technology. That gives completely new possibilities: from getting better data analysis to the creation of printed organs within 3D technology.
In the first half of 2019, we decided to check how Polish companies related to the broad medical industry fall in the context of technology and innovation. The survey was conducted among Polish companies in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical care and diagnostics sectors, among device manufacturers, medical portals and medical assistance. In the report, we highlighted, among other things, which technologies dominate in the industry and which ones are to be invested soon.
We are all exposed to the usage of Cloud in private life or at work. However, data storage that we know is functionality that represents only about 10% of the potential use of Cloud solutions. The remaining 90% relates to other services, such as support for relational databases, networks (virtual network, VPN), backups or GPU (graphics processor). You don’t need to be a large company to use Cloud services for storing, programming and managing servers over the Internet. In a well-designed Cloud environment, all data (even if most of it is protected and confidential) is stored and managed in a coherent ‘place’, which means that nothing can be lost or forgotten. This is beneficial both for medical staff whose work becomes more comfortable and for patients who get a better service and can feel the whole experience improving.
Due to the analytical capabilities of the Cloud, it is possible to improve the situation of patients. The use of intelligent enterprise management processes can reduce the number of medical errors, as well as give extensive knowledge, which may result in better diagnosis and treatment planning. One of the examples of the use of Cloud in the medical industry is represented by Virtamed, a Swiss company that offers surgical simulators for medical education. Doctors train various diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in a risk-free environment. The operation of the simulators is based on the extensive use of the Cloud.
In healthcare, Big Data means collecting, analyzing and using consumer, physical and clinical data that is too extensive or complex to be understood by traditional processing methods. This trend has gained importance in healthcare due to three major changes: the massive amount of data available, the rising cost of healthcare, and the focus on consumption. Big Data enables healthcare systems to transform these challenges into personalized patient experiences and high-quality care.
In addition to EHR (Electronic Medical Records), vast amounts of data come from wearables, mobile applications, digital marketing activities, social media and more. This, in turn, requires appropriate systems to collect and interpret them. The main benefit here is creating a holistic, 360-degree image of consumers, patients and doctors. Thanks to comprehensive patient profiles, Big Data increases the level of personalization of care and its efficiency, and thus patient satisfaction. An example of Big Data application is the UnitedHealthcare solution, which thanks to the technology can detect fraud, waste and abuse in healthcare. To manage over a million claims per day (10 TB of data per day) effectively, the company uses the Hadoop platform, which seamlessly integrates large amounts of data, is economical and at the same time innovative.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) within the ability to Machine Learning (ML), can assist doctors and hospital staff support in making clinical decisions (CDS) based on data – paving the way to increase income potential. Artificial intelligence can improve healthcare by supporting preventative medicine and discovering new drugs. In addition to diagnostic imaging, including detecting the spread of cancer, AI is used to synthesize information published in scientific articles, to manage patient flows in emergency rooms and monitor them remotely.
AI tools use similar information to develop unique treatments and offer recommendations to doctors. Surgeons can also take advantage of AI by combining medical records with real-time data during surgery, as well as using data from previous successful surgeries of the same type.
Google itself launched an innovative enterprise based on AI. Google’s DeepMind enables patient monitoring and offers optimal treatment. It is an attempt to take health care facilities to a higher level. The algorithm is similar to machine learning because you do not need to program it specifically. The ability of the machine to learn innovative capabilities can help healthcare institutions offer specialists to better detect the patient’s medical problems.
Augmented Reality (AR) technology allows users to see the real world while displaying digital information or overlays in a real-world environment. Innovations in the use of AR help doctors and surgeons to diagnose, treat, and perform surgery on patients. The great advantage of this solution is providing access to real-time data and patient information faster and more accurately than ever before. AR can also bring enormous value to medical education, enabling students and physicians to visualize health problems and treatment scenarios. The advantage of AR also lies in its use to increase patient knowledge. Augmented reality allows displaying information about drugs and therapy in an understandable and user-friendly form, showing the three-dimensional model of drugs, their main functions and their action in the body.
At Cybercom, we’ve created a prototype based on augmented reality. The project was run in cooperation with the startup MemoAR, which showed in its research that people suffering from dementia in the early stages of the disease gradually begin to avoid some daily activities and withdraw themselves from social interactions due to sudden memory loss. That is why the idea of creating an application combining several useful functions such as face recognition was born – mainly to help patients in their daily life. In the final version, the app will be supplemented with AR glasses.
Virtual Reality (VR) uses technologies to create a simulated environment. Virtual environments are currently used to treat stroke victims as well as in physical and work therapy, pain management, telemedicine support, surgical training and many other health problems. The ability to view the inside of the human body in virtual reality is useful not only for doctors, but also for patients. VR allows them to go through their surgical plan, virtually presenting 360 ° VR reconstruction of their anatomy and pathology. The result is a better understanding of treatment, and thus greater patient satisfaction and commitment. VR’s unique ability to create compelling simulation scenarios also proves to be useful in mental illness therapies. It is used to reduce memory loss, help children with autism, and collect data for dementia research.
The abilities of VR are not limited to psychological issues but have been proven to also work in the treatment of pain and physical problems. A study by the University of Washington Seattle and the UW Harborview Burn Center showed that full VR immersion in people undergoing skin transplant acted as a distraction, and then reduced the pain threshold in patients. It has also been demonstrated that VR in physical therapy accelerates recovery time. Allowing the patient to perform recommended daily exercises makes the activity more enjoyable, keeps the patient-focused and helps him stay calm during a long recovery period.
To be continued
In addition to the trends mentioned above, our analysis includes technological solutions such as mobile applications, Internet of Things, robots, 3D printing and drones. In the Strategic role of technology in the medical industry 2019 report, we described all ten trends with examples of applications. The report focuses not only on the technologies themselves but also on answers to such questions as:
- How many medical companies have a formal digital development strategy?
- To what extent do other companies from the sector invest in the development of technological competencies within the organization?
- What is the budget for technology projects?
Don’t hesitate and check our analysis so that you can see the way forward of the medical industry in Poland and to realize which technologies should be used to achieve better results and patient satisfaction.