4 min read
Opinions expressed by contributors are their own. Healthcare has always been one of the most important sectors of society. Throughout history, people have explored a variety of means to prevent and cure disease and to achieve better health and longevity.
As computer-driven technology has become increasingly sophisticated and more widely available, it’s not surprising that entrepreneurs are finding ways to bring the latest technologies to bear in solving health issues of all kinds. Those who are successful will reap immense benefits for themselves and society at large for the simple reason that good health is something individuals, communities, and nations are willing to pay a premium for. For investors, entrepreneurs and customers who want to stay informed, here are some of the technologies having the most impact on the healthcare sector.
At first glance, it might seem ironic that one of the greatest paradigm changes in the healthcare sector is being driven by one of the greatest health crises the world has ever seen, but it really isn’t. That’s what technology and tech entrepreneurs do — step in to provide solutions to problems. Although the concept of calling or teleconferencing with a doctor is not new, the recent movement restrictions have shifted the concept from being a novelty to a necessity.
Related: 5 Digital Health Trends Here to Stay for 2021
Today, there are a variety of platforms that allow people to get on video calls with their doctor where the provider can conduct a comprehensive analysis of their symptoms, give a diagnosis and even prescribe drugs or procedures. Most hospitals have shifted to a hybrid care model which is increasingly popular for basic consultations, with in-person care reserved for follow-ups and urgent procedures. Using a hybrid system has been very effective. Several large organizations, including Harvard Medical School, have seen successful outcomes for patients while reducing costs drastically and making healthcare more accessible as a result.
Wearables have become more popular over the years and have provided lots of useful data for people to track their health. That data is a goldmine of information for healthcare providers as well. Providers can tap into the data to get a comprehensive view of a person’s health over years, down to the day, hour and minute. By applying advanced algorithms to these data sets, medical professionals can make diagnoses that are both faster and more accurate.
AI is already being applied in various areas of healthcare, including vaccine development, simulation-driven drug discovery, thermal screening and diagnostics applications. The creation of advanced hardware to make self-care more convenient and effective, including products such as t-shirts with health sensors and Myst dental care devices which provide automated full-mouth toothbrushing, are great examples of AI at work. In addition to health technology, data-based and AI-driven prediction will also likely be used by more and more insurance companies to better identify risks and further optimize the plans they offer. Among other applications, machine learning has been applied to read x-rays and also to develop algorithms that help oncologists offer deep insights on biopsy reads.
VR has traditionally been the realm of gamers, and most people instinctively associate the technology with gaming and entertainment generally. However, there are quite a few health applications, including healthcare for seniors, that use VR. Virtual reality can help seniors visit their favorite places and childhood neighborhoods and enjoy scenic locations. This serves as a form of memory care therapy and is very useful in boosting socialization and overall psychological health among seniors.
Virtual reality is also being used as a sort of tech anesthetic, helping to distract patients undergoing painful treatments in situations where using anesthetics wouldn’t be ideal. It is also being used to provide education, by giving vivid tours of the human body (or even tumors) to explain procedures to patients and their families.
Another thing VR is increasingly used for is the planning process of complex surgeries. To ensure that the processes go smoothly, the staff involved in the surgery can use VR to explore visualizations of the patient’s organs, thus helping them to prepare for potential obstacles, prevent loss of life and increase the chances of a successful operation.