Technology is undeniably shaping the healthcare landscape. So far, 2019 seems to be a bountiful year in terms of novel tech-enabled health solutions. Patients and providers are starting to get a glimpse of how smart sensors, sophisticated medical software or telemedicine can help them achieve better health outcomes, while saving them time and money.
We gathered five emerging technologies that hold the most potential to revolutionize the medical system:
1. Medical sensor technology
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that biosensors started making their way into the healthcare industry. Nowadays, this technology is being used in many different medical fields, from neonatology to oncology, and even physiology. Either wearable or indigestible, biosensors are extremely versatile. They can prevent, diagnose and monitor health conditions with increasingly high accuracy.
Here’s what makes medical sensor technology so valuable:
- Implantable wireless sensors are safer for the human body. In some cases, they are designed to dissolve after they have achieved their medical purpose.
- Wearable sensors provide a cheaper way to remotely monitor patients, enabling fast, early interventions.
- Sensors are non-invasive and user-friendly. They are often incorporated into smart watches, belts or even headphones.
2. Medical smart software
If it weren’t for complex software powering them, modern medical devices would not have the same capabilities to improve or treat life-threatening conditions. While not a medical product by itself, “SaMD can amplify the effectiveness of medical devices and existing treatment plans, as it enables easy and fast collection of high-quality data — which leads to better health outcomes,” explains Orthogonal.
Here’s why SaMD is having its moment in 2019:
- It can collect and analyze large amounts of data from medical devices to predict the risk of chronic diseases, including cancer.
- It can help patients monitor their condition and provide real-time health recommendations.
- It can be used for ambulatory patient monitoring, collecting data on subtle deviations that allow physicians to make better, faster treatment decisions.
Five or ten years ago, diagnosing and treating patients via web and mobile platforms might have sounded too good to be true. But in 2019, thanks to telemedicine technology, that’s exactly how healthcare is being delivered. And while there is still some skepticism surrounding its efficacy, there’s also increased scientific evidence to silence that skepticism.
Here are some of the main benefits of telemedicine:
- It’s as effective as traditional, in-office doctor appointments. Doctors all over the country are currently using telemedicine to diagnose, monitor and treat several health conditions, including depression, substance abuse and Parkinson’s.
- It’s affordable. Telemedicine services are now covered by large health insurers like Humana and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Plus, a virtual visit can cost as low as $40, depending on the medical specialty.
- It saves time. For patients, there’s no travel involved to get to a doctor’s office, and clinicians can tend to more people in a given day.
- It’s very convenient. All you need to connect with a doctor these days is a mobile phone and a credit card. Telemedicine providers have made the entire experience a breeze. One company, Hello Alvin, even made news last year when they started allowing patients to enroll in their telemedicine program directly via text messages.
4. Voice technology
While not initially designed for medical purposes, voice recognition is rapidly making its way into the healthcare system. From pharma to health startups and hospitals, a growing number of healthcare-facing companies are investing into Alexa skills that not only improve patient satisfaction, but also save time and money by streamlining routine tasks for medical staffers.
Here’s why voice tech is bound to revolutionize the healthcare system in 2019:
- It turns hospitals into patient-friendly environments. Having an Amazon Echo in their hospital room allows patients to make music requests, ask for weather updates and even call for a nurse. Just by using their voice.
- It doubles as a diagnostic tool. Certain Alexa skills can detect subtle changes in a user’s voice and recognize signs of illness, whether it’s a simple cold or a mental health-related issue.
- It expedites the physician’s research time, allowing for more time with patients. Instead of browsing the web, doctors simply ask Alexa for all sorts of information. Some hospitals are also testing voice skills designed to provide step-by-step guidance during surgeries.
5. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
There’s hardly an important medical convention nowadays where the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) doesn’t come up. More than a futuristic concept, AI is a technology with real-world medical applications. We’re talking about surgery-aide robots, fraud detection systems, as well as clinical trial participant identifier platforms. It’s no wonder that healthcare organizations are investing more than ever into AI-fueled medical solution. In fact, the healthcare AI market is expected to surpass $13 billion by 2025.
Here’s how AI is driving health innovation in 2019:
- It improves clinical decisions. AI-driven softwares are able to sort through massive quantities of patient data and deliver key insights that enable doctors to make more accurate clinical decisions.
- It enhances doctors’ performance. Health bots are allowing physicians to take better care of more patients, in less time. Some bots diagnose patients before referring them to a specialist. Others are helping nurses, surgeons and even medical students to train for complex surgical procedures without having to set a foot into a physical training room.
- It improves patient outcomes. Facial recognition software combined with machine learning helps clinicians diagnose rare diseases.
6. Mobile Technology
The use of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices in healthcare has become commonplace. Mobile health technology overhauled the entire continuum of care allowing for real-time monitoring of patients, fast access to electronic health records (EHR) and secure text messaging between care teams. For patients, mobile gave them the power to manage their health with the click of a button, anytime and from anywhere.
Here’s what makes mobile an indispensable technology in healthcare:
- It can improve the health of patients in underdeveloped nations. For instance, doctors in Ethiopia or Indonesia are using mobile apps to diagnose life-threatening conditions.
- It can decrease costs. Sophisticated mobile apps are replacing traditional are replacing traditional medical devices such as electrocardiogram machine for a fraction of the cost
- It boosts patient engagement through electronic patient portals. Instead of relying on their physicians, patients can now view lab results, request medication refills,
- correct errors in the medical records, and much more.
As these technologies gain recognition across all medical fields, both clinicians and patients will get more comfortable with using them. The day when voice or artificial intelligence will become central parts of the healthcare system is fast approaching. And patients will be the first to reap the benefits.