Even though the healthcare industry is notoriously unreceptive–or rather quite slow–to embrace technology, the past few years have witnessed the significant adoption of many new trends in the sector. Fueling this tangent are reasons such as the increasing interest of consumers in health matters, software innovations, increasing investment in public and private healthcare, and the phasing out of some traditional medical practices.
With that said, as we start 2020, it helps if we keep a keen eye on the technology trends that are sure to impact the sector. So, in line with that, this article delves deeper into five techs that have shown massive potential when it comes to disrupting–in a good way–the healthcare industry.
Telemedicine is a relatively new technological addition to the healthcare industry. It is no wonder many people still do not quite understand what the concept is all about.
So, to help, let us define the term.
Simply, telemedicine is the utilization of digital platforms and any existing telecommunication techs to enable patients to access medical attention remotely. Also, telemedicine leverages these digital resources to better the healthcare sector as a whole.
Some excellent examples of techs that allow for the implementation of telemedicine are the internet, wireless network, videoconferencing, teleconferencing, streaming, and chatbots. And considering these technologies, it’s logical to conclude that telemedicine is all about allowing medical experts and the affected to interact at a distance.
Already, telemedicine has experienced significant growth within the well-being sector. In 2020 and beyond, the same can be expected, especially since medical professionals forecast that the telemedicine market will exceed $130bn by 2025, according to Healthcare Weekly.
Patients find telemedicine especially handy because it saves them the cost and inconvenience of taking a trip to see a medical expert. Moreover, it keeps them from having to consider the discomfort of transportation when they are too weak to move about. And last but not least, with telemedicine, the sick can access medical attention 24/7/365–and in real-time.
This refers to the software applications providing the healthcare industry with their required IT functionalities. Case in point, according to Orthogonal, medical software enables devices to measure such metrics as blood sugar and heart rate, to dispense medicines, and to amass and display medical results/reports–and more besides.
Thanks to continued advancements in such technology, we can expect more sophisticated medical software to emerge in 2020. Already, these solutions have made it possible for healthcare devices to connect wirelessly and to link other devices, for instance, to body-worn patient devices.
As a result, medical experts can now diagnose and treat their patients without having to interact on a face-to-face basis. That said, as medical software becomes less dependent on dedicated hardwares, it is now possible for a single application to operate multiple devices performing the same purpose. As an example, many such applications can be downloaded and installed on PCs or mobile phones.
In 2020, these applications will also take on more sophisticated functions such as activating and operating healthcare equipment linked to a PC or mobile phone on which they are installed. In this manner, these day-to-day devices can not only gather patient data but also submit it to healthcare practitioners, facilitating timely and cost-effective interventions to benefit both patients and the healthcare system per se.
Virtual Reality Therapy
One of the new technologies that’s already registered widespread implementation in the healthcare industry is virtual reality, known as VR.
VR, which offers 3D-visualized image simulations, is changing the way people view healthcare. Today, virtual reality is being used to help perform surgery, educate patients about their illnesses or surgical procedures, and to give patients virtual tours of health facilities before they have to attend in person.
One of the most promising benefits of VR in healthcare is in the therapeutic setting. According to BBC News, VR imaging has been in use to ease severe pain in burn victims during dressing changes since 2017. Patients ailing from chronic diseases such as cancer and who mostly rely on opioids to manage pain, are also benefiting from virtual reality’s therapeutic advantages.
Currently, virtual reality headsets are also being studied as a form of easing pain in women during childbirth. But, the benefits of VR in therapy don’t stop there.
The technology has also shown success in dealing with phobias. Virtual reality exposure therapy works by immersing individuals into anxiety-inciting situations they would find hard to face in real life while remaining completely safe. By facing these fears, people can overcome them.
You have probably heard of 3D printing, a process that creates physical three-dimensional objects from a digital representation using a variety of materials from plastic to metal. 3D printing has become quite common in the manufacturing sector.
However, what you might not know is that this technology also has a place in healthcare. According to National Geographic, instead of layers of plastic, scientists have discovered how to make 3D organs and tissues using layers of cells, a process known as bioprinting. In this case, real human cells function as the ‘ink’ for the printer.
At the moment, 3D organs such as kidneys are being utilized to help researchers test out different drugs before they can be administered to humans. Soon, you won’t have to wait while doctors find a donor match in order to get a transplant, as the requisite organ or tissue will be custom-printed for you. Also, pills containing a combination of meds can be printed using 3D printers to help patients in drug management, and many organizations that produce prostheses are also making use of digital printing to create more realistic, better-fitting and more responsive prosthetic devices.
Health and Fitness Wearables
Body-worn devices known as wearables come in all shapes, functions, and sizes. Today, the demand for wearables is booming, and according to Statista, more than 223 million wearable devices were shipped globally in 2019.
The majority of wearables are used for health and fitness; people are using these gadgets to monitor their heartbeats, breathing, sleep quality, workouts, and daily steps, among a multitude of other applications. In all, these wearables are helping people combat cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure, diabetes and other chronic diseases related to lifestyle choices and physical fitness.
Without a doubt, advances in technology have brought a lot of benefits to the human race, and we are only just scraping the surface of what technology can do for the healthcare sector. It’s already helping people all over the world to make better life choices and access better medical care, but the possibilities seem limitless and we can look forward to a future in which medical and healthcare technology plays an increasingly vital role.