Healthcare is one of those industries that always seem poised to be at the forefront of technology. Every year, scientists announce some major breakthrough and now, with advances in electronics, computers and software, we might have some new technology to get excited about when it comes to our healthcare.
Here are some of the technologies to look forward to the most.
It can sometimes take weeks for patients to receive a diagnosis. First a physician has to take a sample (sputum, blood, tissue, urine etc.) or take an image (like an x-ray), and send it off to a lab. Then specialists review the evidence to determine the problem that the patient has.
This process sounds simple. But logistically is it challenging. Plus there aren’t usually enough specialists to go around, so there are always waiting lists.
However, robot diagnosis could potentially change this over the coming decade. Machine learning is advancing to the point where a computer can now evaluate x-ray outputs as well as a person. There are still some accuracy issues. But once programmers iron those out, things will continue to improve. We could eventually see the efficiency of this part of the medical system rise exponentially.
For years, practitioners and public officials have been touting the wonders of telemedicine. But nothing much happened. Physicians and patients continued to see each other in person, despite the inefficiency.
Now, though, that’s all changing thanks to the pandemic. The rise of online GP services is nothing short of spectacular. And there are now dozens of apps on the market that integrate with phones, providing an easy and quick way to access medical services.
The nice thing about telemedicine is the ability to schedule. You no longer have to call up a receptionist on the front desk to book your appointment and wait for sometimes hours in the waiting room.
Instead, you just click an available slot and wait for the doctor to show up. Many of these apps allow cancellations, so you can often get an appointment quickly if somebody ahead of you in the queue drops out.
For years, science fiction fans looked upon the Star Trek tricorder as a hopelessly futuristic technology. It was a device that could scan people’s bodies and tell the physician what was wrong with them.
But, thanks to the development of smartphones, even this looks like it will soon become a reality – if it hasn’t happened already.
Take watches, for instance. You can already get devices that will track things like your heart rate, sleep patterns and blood oxygenation. But in the future, we could see wearables that can measure your blood sugar, stress levels and even cholesterol. Having access to real-time outputs for those biomarkers would provide a much more accurate and visible overview of health.
Imagine being able to go to the pharmacy and get your medicine from a machine. Well, this too could become a reality as the cost of machinery falls.
It’s becoming possible because of developments in the robotics market. Over the last decade, the price of robot arms and servos has fallen considerably. And that means that the cost of creating automated kiosks is falling too.
A large, self-contained machine could theoretically prepare and package medications for patients with no human labour involved. And that could slash the cost of medicine.
Portal technology is still in its infancy in the healthcare sector, but things are changing. Already, entrepreneurs are introducing ideas that will enable patients to access their medical records at will.
In the future, this could extend more widely, creating self-contained platforms that provide a full suite of services.
Better drug development
Drug development looks like it is going to improve over the coming decade as well. For instance, there are already several start-ups leveraging AI to come up with new molecules while savings on costs and testing time.
If quantum computers enter the scene, we may also see the beginning of in silico trials where researchers simulate the effects of medicine on organisms in virtual reality. The idea is to cut out testing in the real world altogether, cutting costs and speeding development time. If you had a big enough computer, you could potentially run millions of simulations at the same time.
So, as you can see, the future of medicine looks promising. We’re moving away from the old-fashioned break-fix model to something more advanced and helpful to patients.