As the average human life expectancy continues to gradually increase, the focus of the healthcare industry has dramatically shifted. Since the dawn of modern medicine, healthcare systems have been reactive. They wait for one to become sick before any action is taken. Now, with 50% of disease attributed to chronic illness, proactive and preventative measures are being prioritized.
With this shift, comes a wave of disruption in the healthcare industry. Technology is reaching unparalleled heights, and to give patients the best care, hospitals must keep up with the latest innovations. These are the 3 tech trends that are currently changing the face of healthcare.
Connected care is the process of linking every aspect of healthcare into one place so that individuals and professionals can increase accessibility and communicate more efficiently. This is also known as cloud computing.
A revolutionary part of connected care is the development of telehealth, technologies used by doctors to communicate with patients throughout the diagnosis, management, and education processes, among other things. It can include text notification services, online health portals to check test results, and applications to monitor exercise or food intake. Devices that can wirelessly share patient information are quickly gaining popularity, especially in rural areas where commuting to get healthcare can pose difficulties.
Chatbots are another example of the growing tech. They’re powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and can perform simple functions as a go-between for patients and doctors. They’re able to answer basic questions, set up appointments, or remind individuals when to take their medicine. They can even alert healthcare professionals when necessary.
Connected care has been on the horizon for quite some time, but the healthcare sector has been slow to make any major advancements towards its implementation. Now, its integration into the medical field is speeding up. By the end of 2018, it’s expected that 60% of communication with healthcare providers and facilities will be done through mobile devices.
Wearable medical devices, commonly known as wearables, are patient monitoring devices that have the remote, real-time ability to assist in quicker diagnoses and treatment for patients. While wearables cannot currently be used to diagnose on their own, the data they collect can provide insight on body vitals and metrics that may otherwise be overlooked. This can lead to the discovery of early warning signs of disease and a reduction in costly hospital stays.
Wearables can monitor pulse, glucose, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, respiration, temperature, hydration, brain activity, and more. One in six consumers currently own and use wearable tech and it’s estimated that by 2023, the market will be worth over $25 billion.
There are a variety of innovative ways that researchers, doctors, and educators are leveraging immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR) to augment healthcare. VR creates a computer generated, three-dimensional environment that users can interact with, allowing them to get accustomed to settings that are unfamiliar or overwhelming.
One example of VR integration in the medical field is HoloAnatomy, an app developed at Case Western Reserve to replace regular medical books and laboratories filled with cadavers. Alternatively, their medical students can virtually dissect a body to see and interact with the structures, systems, and organs.
VR is also being used in exposure therapy, specifically to treat PTSD in veterans and active military. University of Southern California created Bravemind, a clinical VR tool that places patients in virtual environments that mirror their traumatic experiences. They’re given the opportunity to gain control over their emotions, thoughts, and actions in any given scenario. It’s currently in use at over 100 military bases, hospitals, and universities across the nation.
There are numerous similar cases where hospitals and schools are using VR to replicate real-life situations for training or treatment. The possibilities for the future of this technology are endless.
Technology is paving the way for better care in our future. It’s creating waves in the medical field and improving millions of lives annually. New tech not only benefits patients, but the doctors, nurses, administrators, and educators that work hard every day to keep them healthy. 2018 is bound to be a game-changer for the evolution of the healthcare industry.