The future of the healthcare industry is rapidly evolving thanks to digital advancements like AI, VR/AR, 3D printing, robotics, and nanotechnology. To stay relevant, healthcare professionals must embrace these emerging technologies.
Fear of robots taking jobs, AI dominance, and excessive virtual reality use all stem from uncertainty about the future. Despite these fears, we can’t halt technological progress. Instead, we must approach technology with an open mind and arm ourselves with knowledge. To harness technology’s potential, we must stay ahead and work in harmony with it. By doing so, we can create sustainable healthcare systems, improve doctor-patient relationships, and find more effective disease solutions, ultimately leading to healthier communities. Starting with digital technology, we can transform our approach to health and medicine.
Here are the top healthcare technologies that are reshaping the future of medicine.
- Artificial Intelligence:
Artificial intelligence (AI) stands on the brink of reshaping the landscape of healthcare. AI algorithms possess the remarkable capability to delve into vast medical records, craft treatment plans, and even accelerate drug development processes more rapidly than any human healthcare professional. The recent surge in generative AI technology has made these powerful tools accessible and practical for both the general public and healthcare practitioners.
One notable company, Atomwise, seeks to revolutionize medicine development by harnessing the computational power of supercomputers. Their deep convolutional neural network, AtomNet, scrutinizes an astounding 100 million compounds each day, predicting in advance which potential medicines hold promise and which do not.
Google’s Med-PaLM represents a significant milestone as the first large language model tailored specifically for medical applications. Its second iteration surpasses the first in performance, although it remains primarily within the purview of medical institutions.
These are merely two examples of the myriad of enterprises leveraging AI to advance healthcare in numerous domains, from drug discovery to diagnostics. In a recent article, we’ve compiled a selection of our favorite instances of companies leading the charge in the healthcare AI revolution. One can only imagine the horizons that will open for humanity through the early integration of AI into healthcare, facilitating groundbreaking discoveries.
- Extended Reality (XR):
Extended Reality (XR), encompassing Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR), holds the potential to emerge as the next major computing platform. In the context of healthcare, all three components of XR are poised to play pivotal roles.
The immersive nature of VR makes it a fitting alternative for mental health care and pain management without the need for pharmaceutical interventions.
AR, while still in a phase of maturation, has already demonstrated promising applications in healthcare. Pioneering efforts such as AR-assisted spinal fusion surgeries performed at Johns Hopkins University and the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York highlight its potential.
MR adds an extra layer of depth and interactivity to virtual elements, enabling novel interactions that surpass the capabilities of AR. Devices like the Microsoft Hololens and Magic Leap have predominantly found use in industries, allowing physicians to engage in hands-free consultations while reviewing medical data, including X-rays and clinical notes.
- Health Trackers, Wearables, and Sensors:
In the age of patient empowerment, health trackers, wearables, and sensors have become indispensable tools. These devices provide individuals with insights into various aspects of their health, allowing them to regain control over their lives
However, this represents just the tip of the iceberg. Over the years, I’ve tested and reviewed over a hundred digital health devices, exploring how these innovations can empower individuals to manage their weight, stress levels, cognitive functions, and overall well-being. The beauty of these technologically-driven devices lies in their ability to place patients at the center of care. With the capability to monitor one’s health at home and remotely share results with healthcare providers, these devices empower people to make informed decisions about their health.
- Portable Diagnostics Devices:
The dream of a portable, all-encompassing diagnostic device has long been the aspiration of healthcare professionals. Thanks to remarkable advancements in healthcare technology, this dream is becoming a reality. Devices like the Viatom CheckMe Pro, MedWand, and BioSticker from BioIntelliSense offer palm-sized solutions that can measure a wide range of vital parameters, from ECG and heart rate to temperature and respiratory rate. Some even include cameras for telemedical purposes.
Furthermore, portable ultrasounds like the Philips Lumify and the Clarius Portable Ultrasound, along with AI-backed devices such as Kosmos by EchoNous, are pushing the boundaries of medical imaging. These innovations are not only convenient but also hold the potential to enhance healthcare accessibility and efficiency.
- Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing:
The Human Genome Project, which once cost the US government an exorbitant $2.7 billion, has witnessed a remarkable transformation. DNA sequencing giant Illumina has unveiled technology that promises to sequence an individual’s entire genome for less than $100. This prediction is swiftly becoming a reality, marking a significant milestone in the field of genetics.
Direct-to-consumer genetic testing has made substantial progress in recent years. Numerous companies now offer valuable insights into genetic predispositions to various health conditions. These tests empower individuals to take proactive measures for prevention and early intervention, enabling them to make informed decisions about their lifestyles and healthcare. This newfound knowledge contributes to improved overall well-being and longevity.
- Revolutionizing Drug Development:
The drug development process has historically been lengthy and costly. However, innovative approaches ranging from artificial intelligence to in silico trials are poised to revolutionize the pharmaceutical landscape. Companies like Turbine, Atomwise, and Deep Genomics leverage the power of AI to accelerate drug development, reducing costs and saving lives in the process.
In silico drug trials, while not yet capable of fully simulating clinical trials, are making significant strides. Organ-on-a-chip technology is already in use, and models like HumMod, described as the “most complete mathematical model of human physiology,” hold immense promise. In the near future, it may be possible to test thousands of potential drugs on virtual patient models in mere minutes, ushering in a new era of drug discovery.
- Digital Therapeutics (DTx):
Digital Therapeutics (DTx) is a burgeoning field within the digital health ecosystem, delivering evidence-based healthcare solutions through software and digital technologies. DTx complements traditional therapeutics, delivering substantial benefits such as reduced readmission rates and improved management of chronic conditions.
These solutions are typically accessible through smartphone apps, ensuring widespread availability and a degree of privacy in healthcare delivery. DTx represents a paradigm shift in healing, allowing individuals to access treatments through app stores alongside traditional pharmaceuticals, ushering in a new era of personalized healthcare.
- Consumer Medical Robotics:
Robotics is one of the most exciting and rapidly evolving segments of healthcare. Developments range from robot companions and surgical robots to pharmabotics, disinfectant robots, and exoskeletons. Europe’s first exoskeleton-aided surgery and achievements like a tetraplegic individual controlling an exoskeleton with their brain underscore the incredible potential of these technologies.
Robot companions like Pepper, Paro, and Buddy find applications in addressing loneliness, treating mental health issues, and assisting children with chronic illnesses. AI-powered prosthetics, though not yet widely available, hold tremendous promise and may one day become commonplace, revolutionizing artificial limb creation.
- 3D-Printing & Bioprinting:
While the dream of easily 3D-printing fully functional organs is not yet realized, the field of 3D-printing in healthcare is progressing steadily. Biotissues, regenerative heart valves, artificial limbs, retinal cells, pills, blood vessels, and more are within the scope of current 3D-printing capabilities.
This technology also benefits the pharmaceutical industry, with FDA-approved 3D-printed drugs available since 2015. Researchers are exploring the concept of “polypills” with multiple drug layers to improve medication adherence. Recent advancements include 3D-printed pills with controlled drug release rates, highlighting the versatility of this technology in healthcare.
- Patient Empowerment and Patient Design:
Patient design represents a significant departure from the traditional concept of patient-centricity. Instead of passive involvement, patient design invites individuals to become active participants and stakeholders in healthcare decision-making. This “co-design” approach seeks to enhance the customer experience and create greater value in healthcare.
Patient empowerment, a concept that has evolved over decades, has gained momentum in the 21st century due to information accessibility and technological advancements. By involving patients in decision-making processes, healthcare can identify and challenge outdated concepts, ultimately driving innovation and improving patient care.
The healthcare landscape is undergoing a profound transformation driven by digital health technologies. These innovations empower individuals, enhance healthcare accessibility, and offer unprecedented opportunities for improving patient care. As we share knowledge and developments in healthcare, we aim to usher in a new era of the art of medicine, where patient empowerment and cutting-edge technology converge to create a healthier future for all.