Healthcare is an ever-growing, ever-changing industry, and the driving factor of healthcare’s expansive growth has always been technology. With the development of a new technology, there is almost certainly a medical application in which it can be applied. Most recently, with the emergence of big data, healthcare has taken off (again) and will continue to do so in ways that are helping every aspect. Below are the ways in which—within the next 5-10 years—data analytics and technology will combine to establish better working healthcare systems for virtually every region of the world.
Medical services & hospitals
The technological advances of the medical services field of healthcare have regularly been changing the workforce and how doctors and nurses interact with patients. Consistently improving methods to efficiently provide patient care. One standout innovation is the development of telemedicine—a highly convenient way to monitor and provide patient care remotely, yet efficiently.
Throughout a series of teleconferencing, video conferencing, and data-sharing software, a doctor is able to see a patient, listen to concerns and problems, and diagnose or suggest recommendations from anywhere that can hold an internet signal. This will change the way doctors operate from anything to monitoring rehabilitation at home to diagnosing strokes in a shorter amount of time—minimizing the damage that a stroke can inflict on your body.
3D printing has many applications, but its place in the medical field will prove to be invaluable. 3D printing is already making waves in various aspects of medical services for the ability to make implants and prostheses, but it is starting to branch out and be thought of for other services as well. Besides printing specialty surgical tools, 3D printing in now printing customizable prescription pills to create less of an organizational hassle for patients by (safely) combining several different pills into just one. Radiologists can now print a model of an otherwise 2D, printed image to better explain what’s wrong with patients and how to treat ailments.
Wearable technology has been all the rage over the past couple years. But instead of just checking your text messages on your watch, you can actually transform it into a medical device with apps to monitor things such as your heart rate, blood sugar levels, and how many steps you’ve taken for the day. This allows for the constant monitoring of major health threats such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. You and your doctor are able to track your health daily, in which preventative measures can be taken—preventing an emergency.
Physicians have taken it a step further so that you can send them this data for their review to make recommendations and come up with a better treatment plan for you. Wearable medical technology is facilitating the transformation from managing disease treatment to monitoring activities and health patterns leading to disease—possibly preventing the disease in the first place.
Many times, these recommendations for minor difficulties will save numerous trips to the hospital. In the grand scheme of things, less visits to the office or ER will result in reduced healthcare costs overall. Wearable technology is making its way to be applicable not just as a watch, but on your phone, a necklace, glasses, or your shirt. A recent article by Frank McGillin predicts that the wearable device market will be worth $32.27 billion by 2020 based off of figures from Markets and Markets.
Insurance & pharmaceuticals
All of the technology described above is changing the pharmaceutical industry. 3D printing is creating the opportunity to combine a specific dosage of a variety of pills into one. It also allows for the texture of a pill to be made more easily dissolvable, layering and shaping a pill to have specific release rates. It completely alters the way pharmaceutical drugs are manufactured and provided.
Wearable devices and telemedicine are in the unique position to control dosage in which pharmaceutical drugs are prescribed and administered to you. A doctor can more comprehensively control your prescriptions through a diagnosis from data from your smartphone or a video conference. A more precise control of prescriptions may mean less dosage, costing you less at the pharmacy. This saves you both time and money by not having to check in with a doctor physically—which can also result in more frequent check-ups due to the ease of both technologies.
Technology creates an obvious marriage with data analytics, and when applied to the medical field, is a great way to pinpoint risks, diagnoses, and treatment plans. All of which do not necessarily require immediate, expensive medical treatment. More and more people will save themselves a trip to the office or hospital—and with the help of things like wearable technology will be living healthier lives.
Health insurance costs will drop not only from the fact that the general public will need less healthcare services, but also from the fact that if we apply our medical data from devices, it creates an opportunity for an individualized health insurance based upon our personal data instead of subscribing to group rates. With an individualized insurance plan, the risk pool is significantly larger than that of a group plan. Larger risk pools equal lower premiums for the individual.
Technology has advanced the medical field, and therefore, healthcare in nearly every aspect—taking the much-needed steps forward in patient care, accessibility of services, and the way we are looking at insurance and the costs of healthcare. Big data allows for the easy, almost instant, transfer of information and interactions between doctor and patient. And it will only continue to make strides in healthcare.
Many of these technologies applied to healthcare are in their infancy stage and are already making a major impact. As these technologies become more developed, and more ideas of how they can be applied arise, they will continuously help improve already existing measures as well as transform things—such as patient care and provider guidelines, accessibility, and insurance—in ways unimaginable to standard healthcare practices. And if healthcare is looking optimal now, it can only get better over the next decade with the implementation of technology and all the innovative applications it will make possible.