How digital technology is driving better healthcare

Opportunities for new technology in healthcare are boundless.
12 February 2019 | 53 Shares

Emerging technologies could re-imagine healthcare. Source: Shutterstock

The aging population is putting an increasing demand on healthcare systems around the globe.

In the US alone, the number of Americans over the age of 65 is expected to double from around 50 million today to almost 100 million by 2060. And the question is, do we have the resources to care for the health conditions that will undoubtedly come with this?

Fortunately, it looks as though technology could be the answer to addressing the growing concerns of the healthcare industry.

Digital technologies are shaping up the future of healthcare in front of our very eyes. It’s transforming the detection and diagnosis of illnesses, the way we treat and provide cures to patients, and driving life-changing medical research.

Much like how the advent of mobile technology transformed everything from the way we navigate from one location to another to the way we shop, emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and blockchain is revolutionizing healthcare forever.

Let’s look at a few examples of exactly how it’s doing this.

Artificial intelligence

Like many industries, AI has the potential to redesign healthcare completely. The detection of disease, the management of chronic conditions, the delivery of health services, and its application in drug discovery are just a few examples of how AI is being used or trialed for a range of healthcare and research applications.

At last month’s CES show in Vegas, MedTech company, Electronic Caregiver, showcased its virtual ‘nurse’ named Addison that may soon help support thousands of the aging American population through a 15-inch monitor.

The promise of this AI-powered nurse is to facilitate healthcare professionals in monitoring people in their own homes, ensuring they are taking their medicine, and issuing warnings if it foresees any problems developing.

AR and VR

Augmented and virtual reality are commonly associated with the world of gaming, with the likes of Pokémon Go and VR experiences taking the world by storm. But these technologies go much further than providing hours of entertainment.

In Healthcare, AR and VR have some truly wonderful – and perhaps life-changing -applications for both health professionals and patients.

AR is enabling doctors to learn how to perform dangerous procedures, such as heart surgery, without having to first learn on human beings.

Through VR technology, medical students are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in a safe, controlled virtual experience ahead of their real surgical residency. By being able to observe surgeries, virtually practice procedures, and explore human anatomy, they can get a step ahead in their training.

And for patients, VR is helping in a range of scenarios, from helping to combat fears by confronting them ‘virtually’, to helping dementia patients retrieve memories by returning them to a time that was important to them in the past.

Blockchain

The disruptive technology behind Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are also set to play an important role in healthcare.

For instance, blockchain has the potential to transform the outdated way health records are stored today. It will allow doctors and other health professionals to access a patient’s medical history with ease, while also addressing some important data protection and security issues.

IoT and wearables

The number of connected devices is increasingly on the rise, with Gartner predicting that there will be up to 25 billion connected things by 2021.

The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) is resulting in some exciting advancements in today’s digital age— including in that of the healthcare industry. In fact, the worldwide IoT healthcare market is predicted to reach US$136.8 billion by 2021, with wearables forming a large chunk of this.

Connected wearable technology is being leveraged for a range of applications in healthcare. This includes activity tracking devices, pacemakers, hearing aids, and devices that measure things such as blood pressure and heart rate.

These health-tracking devices are incredibly valued in collecting more and more data about the current and future health of an individual. This gathered data can be used in many amazing ways, including research into developing preventative medicine.

It’s an exciting time for healthcare, with digital technologies promising to transform many outdated and inadequate ways of caring for our aging population. And given the speed of these advancements, it’s not hard to imagine just how much more is possible.