These 6 Technologies Are Bringing Big Improvements to Healthcare

May 20, 2019 - 7 minutes read

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Technology has disrupted every single aspect of our lives. Transportation, manufacturing, commerce, education… each of these industries has received upgrades that allow them to function smoother, simpler, and faster.

But perhaps the most profound impact technology is having is in healthcare. With digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), blockchain, and robotics, healthcare developers and innovators are building a better medical ecosystem for the future.

Let’s look at six powerful technologies that are reshaping healthcare right now.

1. Artificial Intelligence

It’s difficult to find an area in healthcare that’s not being affected by AI. In recent years, this advanced technology has opened up completely new avenues to improve the doctor-patient relationship.

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AI is revolutionizing medical imaging and diagnostics. It’s helping physicians hone in on efficient solutions to longstanding problems and create better treatment plans as a result. And it’s even assisting surgeons in the operating room.

Yes, you read that right — AI-assisted surgery is a growing trend that benefits both physicians and patients. It allows patients to gain affordable access to specialists. And it lets doctors receive training more efficient for new surgical methods and procedures.

With all of these applications considered, it’s no wonder that healthcare investment in AI is anticipated to reach $6.6 billion by 2021. Accenture believes that AI medical applications could result in annual savings of $150 billion by 2026. From precision surgery to automating operations, AI is likely to completely reshape healthcare as we know it.

Robotics

Robotics has actually been around in the healthcare industry longer than AI. A prime example is Da Vinci, a robotic-assisted surgery system create by San Francisco developer Intuitive Surgical.

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Da Vinci assists in complex surgeries through a minimally invasive approach. And many more systems have followed in its path since its approval by the FDA in 2000; robotics should be mainstream in healthcare by 2025.

Examples include InTouch Health’s telepresence robots, which give remote doctors the ability to examine patients more meticulously, and Aethon’s TUG robots, which help hospitals transport supplies, clean trash, and perform a variety of other tasks.

Blockchain

Best known for its role in cryptocurrencies, blockchains are actually also playing a substantial role in reshaping healthcare. Like other industries, the medical sector is looking to blockchain for a better way to streamline the organization and sharing of files like electronic health records (EHR).

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Highly regarded for its rock-solid security, blockchain makes it simple to trace any changes. Each transaction gets added to a blockchain as a part of an immutable and timestamped block. So health service providers can easily track various aspects and ensure the information is never altered.

In a recent study of more than 200 healthcare executives, the IBM Institute for Business Value Blockchain found that 16% of respondents are already experimenting with the capabilities blockchain affords them.

3D Printing

3D printing has allowed unprecedented customization which in turn decreases both medical expenses and surgery time. So it’s no surprise that it’s taking healthcare by storm. 3D-printed prosthetics or scaffolds and medical devices like dental implants or hearing aids are all becoming more ubiquitous.

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But these will pale in comparison to the true game-changer that 3D printing brings to the table: human tissue printing. From livers, hearts, eyes, and ears to the smallest functional units of tissues, 3D printing could deliver medical solutions that appear to come straight out of science fiction. Surgical grafts and replacing injured tissues or organs will all become much more viable as this technology advances.

Still, the capabilities it brings us today are already impressive. 3D printers are currently being used to manufacture medical devices and equipment that accommodate a patient’s specific anatomy or medical situation. Because of this, doctors are able to treat unique patient requirements more efficiently and effectively.

Mobile Health

mHealth is reshaping patient-provider relationships more than any other technology on this list. Hospitals, rehab centers, and other medical facilities can all now leverage mobility to produce a better remote care setting. And when combined with wearable technologies, telemedicine can now become a viable reality.

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As a result, doctors can make better clinical decisions based on the data they receive from telemedicine apps and wearables. Their patients can be on the other side of the world, and doctors can still receive the information they need to optimize treatment plans.

Perhaps nowhere is this paradigm shift being felt more than in rural areas. 60 million Americans live in rural areas — that’s 1/5 of the entire population of the United States. Traditionally, a trip to the doctor is taxing for rural citizens, both in terms of money and time. But with mHealth, both these patients and their doctors can stay informed on their current health situation much more easily.

Augmented & Virtual Reality

AR and virtual reality (VR) bring benefits to both sides of the healthcare equation. For example, both patients and providers can use these technologies for further education. In the case of the patient, this can be extremely helpful in lessening stress or anxiety about an upcoming procedure.

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For doctors, they can now stay up-to-date and intimately acquainted with new improvements to current surgery status quos. AR is even letting physicians see anatomical structures during actual surgeries so they know the exact location of organs and blood vessels.

Building Better Healthcare

The technologies we’ve discussed are each bringing some big improvements to healthcare. But to leverage these effectively, it’s important for healthcare institutions to become familiarized with each one and understand the impact they can bring to their practices.

Which technology do you think will have the biggest impact on healthcare? Let us know in the comments!

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