Healthcare has been transformed beyond recognition thanks to the latest technology. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, and robotics have united to change the way we are used to thinking about patient care, treatment, and safety.
Here are the five biggest technological advancements transforming healthcare in 2020.
Electronic Health Records (EHRs)
Hospitals’ information systems, outdated in their ability to store, share, and transfer patient records, are being replaced with electronic health records (EHRs). The main features of EHRs are:
- Containing a patient’s medical history, diagnoses, treatment plans, allergies, vaccinations, etc.
- Enabling quick access to patient records which allows providers to make effective decisions about patient’s care
- Automating and streamlining healthcare provider workflow
- Sharing data with other providers across more than one healthcare organization such as laboratories, pharmacies, emergency facilities, etc.
EHRs allow organizations to reduce costs through decreased paperwork, medical errors, and better access to patient data.
Robotic exoskeletons for paraplegics
Remember huge mechanical beasts fighting against people in Avatar? Or Matt Damon turning into a robotic structure in Elysium? Seems like fantasies about giving fragile human bodies more power through metallic body parts from science fiction movies have become a reality … in the form of exoskeletons. These are wearable devices combining robotics and electronics with machinery to help improve movement by substituting muscle power when it’s needed.
Exoskeletons have a bright future in bringing movement back for the paralyzed, giving assistance to children with cerebral palsy, and assisting doctors during long hours of surgery.
Although exoskeletons are a promising technology, it takes serious effort from users to learn how to use these wearable robots — typically, patients need 20-70 sessions to comprehend how to utilize them.
An ultrasound scanner that works with a smartphone
Jonathan Rothberg, a genetics researcher, and serial entrepreneur figured out how to put ultrasound technology on a chip. That’s basically what Butterfly iQ, a handheld portable ultrasound scanner, is about.
It began when Rothbern’s daughter was diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis, which causes tumors or growths in her body. As a professor of genetics at Yale University, his response to his daughter’s rare disease diagnosis was to start searching for a solution himself. Together with his wife Bonnie, they created Butterfly iQ — a $2,000 go-anywhere gadget (instead of a $100,000 machine in a hospital) scanning the whole body and simply connecting to a smartphone application.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning help genomic medicine grow. Personal genomics refers to the analysis of a person’s genome and then provide that person with genomic information used to determine personalized treatment plans and clinical care. In fact, computers analyze genes and gene mutations causing medical conditions that help the medical community not only understand how diseases occur but also figure out how to treat conditions or even eradicate them. Sequencing a human genome has been one of the greatest advancements in medical technology over the last 30 years.
What comes to your mind when thinking about traditional rehabilitation? Perhaps, ‘boredom’ is the first word. Traditional rehabilitation therapy is often considered uninteresting due to its repetitive nature which leads patients to neglect prescribed treatments. Additionally, such therapy sessions require at least one therapist to work one to one with the patient which increases the need for resources and, therefore the costs for the healthcare system.
By expanding the range and type of exercises patients can try, VR-based rehabilitation creates more opportunities to improve monotonous and sometimes frustrating experiences of rehabilitation. With virtual reality, therapy can be tailored to patients’ needs with an imitation of video-game-like activities. Due to customizing virtual environments that fit the individual’s cognitive and physical impairments, virtual reality has endless possibilities.
3D-printing brings wonders in all aspects of healthcare. Medical professionals are using 3D printing technology to develop surgical cutting, print customized prosthetics for patients, and even replicas of bones, organs, and blood vessels.
3D printing is one of the most promising technologies that have the potential to change the healthcare industry by making care affordable, accessible, and personalized.
Earlier this year Cristian Fracassi, the founder of a 3D printing company, found out that one of the hospitals sitting on the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy was running short on valves — components connecting respirators to oxygen masks — and volunteered to help. “When we heard about the shortage, we got in touch with the hospital immediately. We printed some prototypes, the hospital tested them, and told us they worked,” Fracassi said. The company printed 100 valves and delivered them personally.
Technological breakthroughs are great. But what we will really need in the future is not just technology breakthroughs, but breakthroughs in thinking and the ability of leaders to think creatively when leveraging the power of technologies.
Anna Grechko is a marketing enthusiast and knows the field inside out. She is the marketing specialist at Smart IT. Sharing knowledge is a big part of her career, so Anna doesn’t miss any opportunity to do so.