The invention of the printing press, Karl Benz driving the first automobile, and the launch of smartphones – these are moments in history that signify a quantum jump in the way we do things. We are now at a similar point where a host of technologies are coming together to transform healthcare forever.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
In the eyes of a few esteemed entrepreneurs and experts, artificial intelligence is a monster in the making. No one can predict the course AI will take; whether it’ll turn out to be a Frankenstein monster, as some needlessly fear, is yet to be seen. But, the technology is already here, helping doctors save lives and the government billions of dollars.
The various sections of the healthcare industry have already made a significant investment in Artificial Intelligence. Nearly 90 percent of life science companies, healthcare technology vendors, and healthcare organizations have adopted AI in one form or the other.
In November, an important announcement was made from the machine-learning lab by the researchers of Stanford University. It was made known to the world that human radiologists were outperformed in a pneumonia diagnoses test by a deep-learning algorithm that the researchers had developed.
AI’s involvement in healthcare goes far beyond its role as Dr. House. Scientists are using artificial intelligence to remotely monitor patients, manage emergency rooms, analyze clinical trial data and results, and to even detect the spread of cancer.
Do I detect a sarcastic eye-rolling? Before you dismiss 3D printing as a technology that failed to take off in a big way in healthcare, just hear me out. Yes, 3D printing has been around for a long time, at least since 1984. We agree the technology has failed to go beyond casts, small implants, low-cost prosthetics, and medical equipment. The lack of growth in 3D printing technology can be blamed on strict regulations, high software costs, and unavailability of trained professionals.
3D printing has shown satisfactory results in spite of these obstacles. Now, with the roadblocks disappearing one by one, we can expect a wave of R&D investments, increase in demand, and further development of 3D printing technology.
We’re already witnessing the beginning of the boom period. Custom organs for transplants and personalized prosthetics are now possible only because of the growth of 3D printing technology.
Millions of people in the United States are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants and there are only a limited number of donors. 3D printing can both save lives and significantly reduce medical costs by serving as an alternative for human organ transplants.
Gaming and entertainment industry weren’t the only early adopters of virtual reality. VR has already revolutionized the healthcare industry and it has changed the way the medical staff learns, treats, and interacts with patients.
The technology is currently being used for skills training, surgery simulation, robotic surgery, and phobia treatment, and every day scientists are finding new areas of application for virtual reality.
A combination of technologies – virtual reality, robotics, and 5G – now puts surgery in the realm of possibility, where the surgeon and patient are separated by physical distance, which may be a few meters to a few hundred miles.
Doctors are currently using virtual environments to treat various physical and psychological disorders. Virtual worlds like Second Life allow users from all around the world to interact with each other through avatars. Many health and charity organizations have offices or centers in virtual worlds where patients or parents of patients suffering from disability can gather, share information, and support each other.
Healthcare professionals are using virtual environments to teach autistic children and adults valuable life skills like how to cross the road, safety skills, household chores, self-care skills, etc.
These technologies are already making a difference. However, as they reach their full potential they can do what anesthesia and antibiotics did to healthcare in the previous centuries.