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The ever-evolving world of Healthtech

✦ While developments in technology continue to shape our daily lives at a staggering pace, the impact on the healthcare sector is arguably more profound and important.


Health Technology is a big deal and has been for some time. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines it as “the application of organised knowledge and skills in the form of devices, medicines, vaccines, procedures and systems developed to solve a health problem and improve quality of lives.” Also regularly known as ‘healthtech’, it can refer to anything where technology is being applied to improve the quality and efficiency of the healthcare system, from accurate and reliable diagnosis to enhanced drug research and development, and from robotic-assisted surgery to telehealth. Here we take a look at some of the current major developments and trends in the healthtech sector.


Can technology help improve humanity? | Brilliant Online Australia Singapore UK | Brilliant Online
Can technology help improve humanity?

Intelligent support 

It will come as no surprise that the influence of the contemporary buzz term Artificial Intelligence (AI) is huge in the healthcare industry. AI models have helped doctors diagnose childhood autism from eye images, identify the precursors of colon cancer and predict in real-time whether a surgeon has removed all cancerous tissue during breast cancer surgery. During the COVID-19 pandemic, machine learning healthcare technology was helping analyse CT scans, while digital scans via AI are replacing traditional biopsies to help improve cancer diagnostics. Generative AI is also enhancing workflow automation, medical imaging analysis, producing artificial data for research and accelerating drug discovery.


Something that may well soon become more familiar in the medical world is MedPaLM, Google’s generative AI language model specifically designed to answer healthcare-related questions posed by both doctors and patients. Developed specifically by Google’s AI research lab DeepMind and based on their 540-billion parameter PaLM model, MedPaLM is effectively the medical industry’s version of Chat GPT. This fascinating recent article by New Atlas explains the potential power of Google’s Med-Gemini medical AI model which it claims is “a huge advancement in clinical diagnostics with massive real-world potential” that ultimately “outperforms doctors.”

 

A new virtual reality

Another popular development in recent years has been around augmented, mixed and virtual reality products, an adoption in the healthcare industry known as extended reality. Leveraging artificial intelligence to connect the digital and physical worlds in a multifacted way, extended reality can lend insurmountable support to medical professionals. Using augmented reality tools such as glasses, for example, enables doctors to visualise a patient’s anatomy in 3D by overlaying CAT scans and 3D data to effectively view into a patient's body. Earlier this year in Italy, augmented reality was used in a cardiac surgery operating room to support a minimally-invasive procedure for the first time, with the patient successfully discharged only a few days after surgery. It is something that the senior consultant involved in the procedure predicts we will see plenty more of in future.


“In the future augmented and virtual reality will play an increasingly important role in surgery... providing support to planning procedures and better training opportunities for young surgeons,” commented Prof. Francesco Musumeci.
Telehealth is on the rise | Brilliant Online Australia Singapore UK | Brilliant Online
Telehealth is on the rise

Care from a distance

Developments in the telemedicine industry have been significant in recent years and are expected to continue their steep upward trajectory in the near future – Acropolium explains how in “2022, the global telemedicine market was valued at $60.8 billion and [is] projected to reach $225 billion by 2030.” Switching to remote consultations via video, audio or text means less frequent trips to the doctor’s surgery, which also sees waiting times for patients being reduced, as well as being able to monitor conditions from a distance with ease. This can also eliminate unnecessary follow up visits and even routine check-ups, therefore creating a much more comfortable and convenient experience for the patient.


Wear with care

Being able to gather and transmit patient data in real time via an array of interconnected medical devices and applications is key to this remote care approach and something that is only going to continue to grow. Health trackers that monitor metrics such as physical activity, sleep patterns and vital signs via wearable devices and related apps such as fitness bands and smartwatches have become increasingly accessible and prevalent in recent years, something that has generally encouraged a much healthier mindset within communities. Forbes has compiled a comprehensive overview on existing or future wearable medical trackers and devices, which includes microfluidic patches, wearable electrocardiograms, continuous glucose monitoring devices, AI-driven predictive analytics, wearable biosensors, sensor-embedded smart fabrics and smartwatches for cardiac care.


Similarly, more elaborate and specific equipment to monitor health at home such as tracking blood pressure, glucose levels and heart rate is also now more commonplace, while devices such as pacemakers, insulin pumps, and neurostimulators that are implanted within the body can also communicate data back to doctors to enable a robust remote healthcare dynamic. An extensive list of such products can be viewed here.


Embracing the robots

Robotics is a huge topic in the medical industry. While many of us light-heartedly speculate on whether the robots we have seen depicted in Hollywood will eventually take over the world, their role in healthtech has been key for some time now and cannot be overstated; be it as companions, streamlining supply delivery, administering disinfection procedures, providing patient care, lending physical support to nurses or actually being involved in the surgery room itself, robots are regarded as a key component that provides a wealth of advantages.


Check out what robots in Japan are doing to support health.


Given it has been renowned as a pioneer in the field of technology for decades, it comes as no surprise that healthcare robotics are prominent in Japan where they are lending invaluable care support for the elderly. This video from the Telegraph shares the story of the Honda ‘Hoko Assist’, a replacement for walking sticks or wheelchairs for disabled people that support part of the body. Similarly, robots are being used to treat mental health issues, help alleviate loneliness and even help children with chronic illnesses. Robots such as Pepper, Paro and Buddy are all examples of this.





Technology is significantly reshaping the landscape of the healthcare industry, as it is with so many others. It is therefore fundamentally crucial that we continue to adopt such technological advancements and ensure they are successfully integrated into the healthcare system to enhance our lives and create a healthier world for everyone. The future of healthtech is unquestionably bright and is very much upon us in the here and now, so let’s embrace it...

 

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