Race to Better and Personalized healthcare services
August 28, 2019
Technology means a lot of things to different people. The reason for that is not far-fetched, seeing as it touches us in different aspects of our lives.
For some, technology is as simple as the changes they have observed their phones and computers over the years. For others, it comes in the way they can now interact with the internet to do so much more – shop online, make online transfers, etc. Yet another group will argue that it is the way of offering services in different sectors in new and improved ways.
Speaking of technology and different sectors, let’s take a dive into what it has done for healthcare.
Technology in Healthcare
Over the course of the past few years, the healthcare sector has been embracing technology is at an exponential rate. The most important part of it all is that this sector seems to be a very focused one in the way it is acquiring its tech – making sure every implementation is geared towards a bigger prospect.
Looking at the various forms of technology being applied in this industry; it is evident that many are still in their infant stage of adoption. In the coming years, they will hold even more promise for the healthcare sector.
1 Artificial Intelligence (AI)
This started out many years ago as a concept in science fiction movies, and we now have it in our homes in the form of virtual assistants today.
Unlike a traditional assistant, AI stands out in how it is able to download and consume mounds of data by itself in lightning speed. As if that is not enough, AI will also train itself to analyze trends and patterns which it will use to make future decisions.
If that is not amazing, we don’t know what is.
However, amazing doesn’t cut it. What promises does AI hold with all of its power?
- Analyzation and memorization of medical practices and standard procedures which could be called upon by practitioners at any time
- Provision of physicians with factually accurate, relevant data and statistics in real-time
- Diagnosis of chronic conditions in real-time by analyzing the patient’s physiology against available data, thus eliminating the need for extensive testing procedures, and so much more.
2 Internet of Things (IoT)
This piece of technology is as simple as it is brilliant. That is buttressed in the way it is applied to make everyday things work as part of an ecosystem that can be reached remotely.
That makes it possible for healthcare practitioners to:
- Keep an eye on their patients in real-time, even if the said patients are not in the same physical space as the physician
- Help patients know when they are to seek medical attention or perform other tasks due to the alerts they receive from their connected devices
- Handling of basic tasks (dispensing of drugs, injection of insulin, etc.) without the further involvement of the physician after programming, etc.
The application of IoT is exemplified in a handful of cases where we have had connected devices save the lives of their wearers. The cases with Apple Watch are a bit more publicized than the others, but they all contribute a great deal to the promise these devices hold for the vision of better, personalized healthcare services.
3 Augmented Reality
Each surgical procedure, for example, is technically a case of surgeons going in blind. Of course, they have seen the inside of the human body many times than once before they got their license, but no two cases are the same.
It is, thus, important for surgeons to keep their wits about themselves even when performing seemingly routine surgeries.
All that probable guesswork can be taken out with AR systems. These will help the surgeon make an overlay of the patient’s bone arrangement, organ structure, and such other internal details, further informing the plan ahead – ensuring a grasp of different operational scenarios before the patient is ever opened up.
All that, and we have not mentioned how 3D printing could well change the game for patients in need of organ transplants. Instead of waiting for a donor to come walking through the door, they can just as easily have a working organ designed and printed for them.
The elderly, especially, have already started enjoying remote care (also known to some as telehealth/ telemedicine), and they are grateful for the kind of flexibility this technology has afforded them in healthcare.
We cannot have picked a more interesting time to be alive. But then, again, the grass is not always greener on the other side.
Anywhere we have the involvement of technology, there is always the chance of a cybersecurity breach – and the same is true here. This problem is especially serious for IoT which can be hijacked and remotely manipulated in the same way it is meant to be remotely used to foster better health.
Some researchers demonstrated how IoT could be the weak link towards disrupting the healthcare sector digitally, and their findings were valid enough to draw serious concerns.
After all, if they could hijack something as important as a pacemaker, there is no doubt that a more sinister individual could do the same thing too. Their intentions could be to hold the user to ransom or even kill, but it is never pure.
Keeping Digital Medical Devices Secure
Fortunately, this one bump should not mean the end of the road for technology’s involvement in healthcare. Patients and healthcare providers will have to put up certain measures to ensure the safety and security of their digital units, but they will be well worth it.
Practices such as:
- Resetting the default password that comes with these IoT devices to something more secure;
- Establishing a secure connection for the devices to work on (this could be achieved by layering the router connection over a VPN);
- Updating the device software regularly;
- Ensuring the device is not connected to just about any Wi-Fi network;
- Making sure no one else (but the patient and physician) has access to the medical devices; and
Reporting any perceived cases of tampering as soon as it happens, among others, will help ensure a generally healthier usage profile.