The Future of Healthcare and Technology Trends | ScaleFocus
August 30, 2019

The Future of Healthcare Industry and Technology Trends

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In our previous blog post, we discussed 7 technology trends, shaping the personal care nowadays. This time around, I will be taking a more global look and showcase the technology trends which revolutionize the healthcare industry as a whole.

It is no secret to anybody, that technology has a significant presence in the molding of our modern society. In today’s technology hungry economy, our focus is placed primarily on efficiency, security, and cost-saving. We are facing the emergence of data-driven, patient-centric and highly tailored technological solutions which are slowly reshaping the healthcare industry.

“It is a really exciting time in healthcare. Many technologies are accelerating, and it is our potential to use those technologies in new ways, to rethink and reimagine the healthcare industry.”

Daniel Kraft | Chair for Medicine | Singularity University

The early technology adopters today, will be the ones gaining competitive advantage in the fast-changing environment of the near future. For this reason, I have prepared a list of 5 technology trends, which will have a serious impact on the future of the healthcare industry.

1. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Also known as spatial computing, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), are one of the technology trends which are steadily changing most modern industries. With a 27 billion USD market according to a report by Zion Market Research, and projected 790 billion USD increase until 2025, AR and VR undoubtedly have substantial effects in the future development of the healthcare industry. These immersive technologies have a prominent influence on the way knowledge and information are shared amongst the healthcare communities.

Visualization of person with VR headset

Before diving into the specific areas in which these technologies would be influential to the healthcare industry, it is important to understand the difference between Augmented and Virtual Reality. AR is used to add projections or sounds to enhance the existing environment, which the user already sees. It supplies mostly complementary information and graphics to enrich our visible surroundings. VR, on the other hand, creates an immersive experience, using 3D imagery, fully submerging the user into an alternate environment. In some cases, the user is able to interact and change the appearance of the environment.

Augmented Reality and the Healthcare Industry

Augmented Reality will play a big role in enabling medical practitioners to seamlessly blend sensory experience from the real world, with digital data. Doctors will no longer have to look away during treatment, to get vital information, but instead will have the data overlaid on the patient. Anatomical structures can be identified and highlighted by AR in real-time, aiding diagnosis and assisting with procedures. The implications which this technology has on surgical and treatment circumstances can be lifesaving.

One company specializing in AR medical solutions has developed an application that assists surgeons, by basically allowing the entire operation to be carried out over distance. Proximie offers a solution which augments a live video stream of hands-on virtual assistance by experts. Essentially it allows remote surgeons to virtually connect and give guidance during an operation in real-time. The technology enables broader availability of expertise around the world and reduces waiting time for treatment.

You might also want to know about: 7 Technology Trends in Personal Care [2020]

Virtual Reality and the Healthcare Industry

Virtual Reality is also a game-changer in the future of healthcare. It would have an impact on information and research sharing as well as improvements in current methods of medical education. Not many medical students nowadays have the chance to attend real operations and get an insight into a professional’s line of work.

With VR however, this can change, as surgeries with a high level of detail, could be streamed globally. More students would be able to strap on their goggles and immerse themselves into the o, observing every detail, as an expert, hundreds of miles away, performs a surgery. The very first such case was held in 2016 at the Royal London Hospital, when cancer surgeon Shafi Ahmed performed an operation, streamed using VR cameras. Medical students, Trainee Surgeons, and curious viewers could join and watch as the operation unfolded in real-time.

Moreover, Virtual Reality development is gaining significant speed in the Healthcare industry, as big players are embracing the technology. The multinational medical device company Johnson & Johnson has recently developed its own VR training program. It is designed to give doctors access to convenient and safe hands-on surgical experience.

Here is an overview of the program, which Johnson & Johnson developed:

In the future of healthcare, VR and AR technologies will only persist to enrich industry-related data and become more immersive along the way. They will undoubtedly continue to facilitate efficiency in day-to-day activities of professionals as well as broaden information and expertise availability around the globe.

2. Big Data

Due to the digitalization of vast quantities of information, Big Data plays a crucial role in our modern-day society as a whole and proves to be a primary factor in shaping the future of healthcare. A report by Market Research Future (MRF), estimates that the market for Big Data in the Healthcare industry would reach 17 billion USD by 2022 with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 20.69% for the 2015-2022 forecast period. With a staggering volume and overwhelming diversity in the market, let’s see how Big Data will revolutionize the Healthcare Industry.

Visualization of Multiple binary sequences

The most widespread application of big data in the healthcare industry are electronic health records (EHRs), which provide real-time information about a patient’s full medical history. Currently, the industry is more or less concerned with “SickCare” rather than actual Healthcare. Patients and professionals engage in treatment, only when sickness is contracted, rather than focusing on actual Health and prevention of complications.

You might also want to know about: Tailored Healthcare Industry Solutions

However, this can change with the ongoing incorporation of big data and EHRs into the Healthcare Industry. Having an entire set of information about various user statistics and vitals will allow medical organizations to keep people out of the hospital. The automation, digitization, optimization and interoperability improvement of the medical records process will be a top technology investment in the health industry for the upcoming years.

“Big Data allows the fascinating intersection of huge quantities of patient data with personal, individualized, expert care.”

Bernard Marr | Strategic Business Advisor and Best-Selling Author | Bernard Marr & Co

As more information is gathered and digitalized by hospitals, it would become easier to understand patterns in many patient cases. Identifying chronic issues or early stages of more serious illnesses will be more efficient with the incorporation of big data into more medical institutions. Such understanding would assist accuracy in terms of patient care and facilitated customized treatments.

Prevention of Human Errors is another aspect which Big Data technology enhances within the healthcare industry. It is not a rare occurrence for a professional to prescribe wrong medicine or wrongfully admit a patient in medical care. Such errors are a result of insufficient information about the exact condition of the patient. A recent by the World Health Organization on the topic, suggests that in some countries as much as 6-7% of all hospital admissions are considered avoidable and thus incorrect. Big data can reduce such mistakes by leveraging user data and the administered medical actions. This would be most beneficial to professionals, dealing with larger amounts of patients daily.

You can check the following TED talk on the topic of Big Data in Healthcare and see how the technology would streamline medical accuracy and efficiency in the future:

3. Blockchain and Security of Healthcare

With all this talk about Big Data and digitalization, comes the inevitable question of information security. While increasing quantities of data are gathered and stored by medical institutions, the Healthcare industry is experiencing higher than ever data breaches – basically daily, according to the statistics by HIPAA Journal. The Healthcare industry needs to adopt a new approach to ensure information security in order to advance to the next level – and one major option is undoubtedly Blockchain.

Many of us probably associate Blockchain with Cryptocurrencies only, however, there is a lot more to the virtual ledger than just Bitcoin and Ethereum trading. Blockchain represents a decentralized system in which transactional and historical data is recorded, stored and maintained in a peer-to-peer network of personal computers. In essence, it represents a public ledger in which encrypted data is continuously updated time-stamped and maintained. Due to the decentralized nature of Blockchain, it is highly secured and immutable. This aspect of Blockchain makes it a perfect candidate to revolutionize the Healthcare Industry from its current state.

Visualization BlockChain peace, constructed with binary code

Currently, the state of medical data systems is a mess, to be honest. Patients’ medical records and data are scattered and stored on separate platforms, which makes tasks toilsome, for those who need the data for diagnosis or treatment. In an era of instant information, patients have to physically carry their medical files, if they are redirected from one doctor to another.

Blockchain helps with the transfer of data across institutions securely and efficiently. This can be done with the use of a Decentralized Medication Management System (DMMS). A decentralized network using blockchain technology, which will enable easy access and sharing of patient medical histories, giving rise to patient-centric healthcare.

One company that revolutionizes the healthcare industry is Medicalchain. Their blockchain ledger is an example of a DMMS which allows patients to share their personal medical histories to specific healthcare providers. The system then tracks how the providers interact with the data in a secure and transparent manner. Medicalchain, additionally enables users to sell their medical data to third parties, to be used for medical research purposes.

If you are interested and want to know more about Blockchain in the Healthcare industry, you could check the following podcast on the topic with Robert Chu, CEO of Embleema – blockchain startup focused on secure sharing of personal health records.

4. Artificial Intelligence

No “future technology trend” topic is complete without mentioning Artificial Intelligence. Undoubtedly, AI is one of the most disrupting and innovative technologies out there, making its presence felt in a wide range of industries. Currently, however, many Healthcare C-level executives are still not too sure about it and shy away from experimenting with AI in their organizations. Privacy issues and data integrity concerns are just some of the barriers still standing between the intersection of AI and the Healthcare industry. In spite of this, with projected market size of 27.6 billion USD by 2025 at a CAGR of 43.5%, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are strong on their way to revolutionizing the Healthcare industry.

Visualization of robot hand, touching a representation of DNA

Applying complex algorithms and synthesizing large amounts of data to produce meaningful insights for the healthcare industry is a key aspect of integrating Artificial intelligence. A pioneering use for AI and Machine learning is to expedite medical diagnosis and discover diseases in patients at an early stage. The process of evaluating symptoms and examining their interconnection to specific illnesses can be made significantly more efficient and accurate though pattern recognition and Machine Learning.

Currently, scientists at the University of California and the University of Surrey, are developing an AI solution for identifying, anticipating and analyzing common symptoms of Cancer Patients undergoing chemotherapy. The end goal is to zero-in key symptoms, in order to catch developing cancer cells at an early stage.

“AI is not only helping manage all the information, it is helping generate the right information.”

Praful Krishna| CEO | Coseer

Another area, where Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning alongside Big Data are revolutionizing the Healthcare Industry is the optimization of Drug Discovery and Testing. Currently, the entire process of new drug discovery is an inefficient and costly mess. According to a by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, 9 out of 10 clinical drugs never make it to trials and many more have trouble reaching the FDA approval stage. Drug discovery and development rates are skyrocketing and as a consequence, the costs are passed to the patient, which makes drugs inaccessible for the uninsured. By redefining clinical decision making and generating next-level predictive models, AI can cut down costs of R&D which in the case of pharma is close to 70 billion USD annually.

Big players in the pharma industry – Bayer and Merck & Co, are recognizing the potential of this technology and have engaged in an AI partnership focused on the Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension (CTEPH), a rare form of pulmonary hypertension. The software is set to assist radiologists in dealing with the pattern identification of CTEPH, by analyzing cardiac image findings, perfusion, and pulmonary vessels along with a patient’s clinical history. This is one of the first steps in the journey of AI technologies to make their mark on the Healthcare industry.

You might also want to know about: 7 Technology Trends in Personal Care [2020]

5. Telemedicine

Despite being a relatively well-known trend in the Healthcare Industry, Telemedicine significantly aids and simplifies the lives of both providers and patients. Telemedicine refers to the usage of digital communication technologies to streamline long-distance healthcare access to patients and improve the quality of care. Whether it would be over a web portal, video conference, chatbot or other digital channels, Telemedicine facilitates the connection between doctors and patients, without the need for face-to-face meetings.

visualization of a stethoscope around a phone, with a medicine application

Having a wide spectrum of uses in the healthcare industry, Telemedicine can be divided into numerous sub-categories and types. Thanks to its convenience, E-health Patient services platforms are the most popular and fastest-growing means of telemedicine connection. Such web-based software enables patients to actively and easily get involved in their personal healthcare.

Mobile Health (mHealth) allows anyone having a phone, tablet or computer to easily track their own vital signs or schedule a consultation online in a matter of minutes. The popularity of such telemedicine is leveraged by the vast mobile and software application support. Currently, there are hundreds of mHealth apps, ranging from diabetes management to senior care.

“Medicine is all becoming ‘appified’ and it’s starting to reshape Healthcare around the planet.”

Daniel Kraft | Chair for Medicine | Singularity University

Another area of telemedicine, which is gradually proving its efficacy and convenience is Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM). This technology allows patients with chronic or intensive-care conditions to monitor and share their vital data with professionals in remote monitoring stations, so they can constantly be looked after.

The perks of RPM are quite clear: it is convenient for the patient, sufficiently cost-effective and allows for frequent (24/7 in some cases) professional monitoring. San Diego-based Dexacom is a good example of a and RPM provider with a range of products and a software platform, designed to aid diabetes patients. Their Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) product sends real-time readings to smart devices every 5 minutes. This keeps the patient their physicians and close ones involved in the process.

In Conclusion

Living in the digital era, where everything is connected and interdependent, we can expect the 5 above-mentioned technology trends to have wide-reaching potential to shape the future of the healthcare industry. The continuous stream of Big Data and information gathered, will undoubtedly give rise to the effective implementation of AR and VR, Telemedicine and AI using Machine learning. Alongside, Blockchain will set new standards for how data-encryption can be used and popularized, to make its presence known in the Healthcare industry. The future of the healthcare industry is bright, and we can safely expect to see substantial improvements in the lives of both professionals and patients in the upcoming years.

Still have some questions about how technology is shaping the future of healthcare?

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Author

Rosen Dinchev | Marketing Executive