What’s Truly Amazing About the Future of Healthcare

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Your doctor has just discovered, with the help of an AI-based diagnostic platform, that your heart muscles have experienced serious distress and degeneration. You need an urgent procedure to stave off imminent heart failure.

The second you arrive for your operation, you’re met by a team of nurses, robot care assistants, and a senior surgeon. She’s striking but puts a smile on your face with a few laughs.

“The procedure is pretty standard nowadays and, more importantly, almost all the heavy lifting will be done by robotic hands. But don’t worry; they have delivered razor-precise results countless times, and I will be supervising the whole process,” reassures the surgeon.

She goes on to walk you through how stem cells will be induced in real time to repair your heart muscles on their own. Some tissues will be 3D-printed. You comment how you heard about this remarkable stuff over a decade ago and didn’t think it’d ever come to fruition.

Welcome to the future of healthcare, where cutting-edge technology and healthcare providers work in tandem to help improve the quality of care, as well as deliver optimal patient outcomes.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably noticed impressive transformations that have occurred in the world of healthcare in the last few decades. At the heart of these changes is patient experience.

In this post, we are going to detail 8 consumer trends in healthcare space that were virtually unthinkable 10 or so years ago. They are continuing to shape our enormous $3.65-trillion-dollar healthcare system.

(1) Artificial Intelligence

For healthcare organizations, artificial intelligence in healthcare is no longer a futuristic buzz-term. AI has already proven its worth, with massive and broad-reaching potential in the healthcare arena. AI in healthcare has massive and far-reaching potential, with everything from drug discovery and medical diagnostics

The uptake has also been huge, with AI in healthcare market anticipated to be worth over $36 billion by 2025, an uptick of 43.8 percent from 2018, according to a report by Markets & Markets Research.

Unsurprisingly, North America has witnessed the largest impact of AI in the healthcare space, with everything from medical diagnosis to drug delivery appearing under the umbrella of what can be accomplished with this emerging technology.

Take drug discovery and development, for instance. Scores of pharma and health companies are already employing AI to help reduce time to market. You can ready AI in pharma in detail in this comprehensive article published in the Healthcare Weekly.

Of more importance, however, is that pharma startups like Verge Genomics and Benevolent AI are currently using deep learning algorithms to sift through complex data to identify ways to make drugs faster and more cost-effectively.

Clinical trials, which has traditionally been a big mess, is another area of healthcare where artificial intelligence is causing a great shift. With the vast majority of clinical trials being managed offline, AI can bridge the gap and provide the much-needed integrated solution that can help collect data, monitor progress, and keep a tab on the outcomes of clinical trials.

AI is also being leveraged to diagnose disease quicker, less invasively and with a higher level of accuracy. Here’s a quick rundown of why the industry experts think AI will have the biggest impact on healthcare.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A group of scientists at Stanford University has already shown that an AI platform can help diagnose skin cancers at the same accuracy as experienced oncologists.

An AI software developed by Danish health-tech company has also been used to listen in on the activities of EMTs. By eavesdropping on the conversations between the patients and technicians, the AI-powered system could help detect heart attacks with a 20 percent more accuracy than human dispatchers.

If that isn’t fascinating enough, AI is also doing wonders in the realm of pain management, which is a healthcare’s emerging focus area. Together with VR, AI can be used to simulate realities and make-believe scenarios that can help distract patients from pain.

With opioid abuse on the rise, AI-powered pain management solutions can make a huge difference. And big health-focused companies like Johnson & Johnson have already developed AI training and simulation software.

No matter what angle you look at it, the future of artificial intelligence in healthcare is brighter than ever.

(2) Virtual Nursing Assistants

In an increasingly patient-centered healthcare ecosystem, creating pleasant experiences for the consumers is key. That’s where virtual nurse assistants come into play.

These AI-powered assistants to do pretty much everything to help the patient recover quicker and more comfortably. They interact with patients as well as direct them to take their medications on time.

They’ve become a huge hit especially in senior care. The allure behind this concept is that virtual nursing assistants, when combined with telemedicine, are available around the clock, continuously monitoring patients and offering quick, well-informed answers.

Virtual assistants not only deliver better patient outcomes but have the potential of cutting hospital readmission rates by a huge margin. Solutions like Care Angel which offer next-level services thanks to voice-recognition and AI are truly a game-changer.

In light of that, virtual nursing assistants are expected to save more than $20 billion for the healthcare industry.

(3) Virtual Reality

Over 240 hospitals across the US have started using VR in several aspects of healthcare. In most cases, healthcare providers leverage virtual reality to help patients understand and visualize their treatment options.

The applications of VR, especially when combined with artificial intelligence and augmented reality are immense. That’s why it comes as no surprise that the market for augmented reality and virtual reality in healthcare will hit $5.1 billion by the year 2025.

VR methods already active in healthcare environments include head-mounted displays (HMDs), desktop virtual reality, smart tech glasses, and haptic treadmills/gloves.

As we have already mentioned, doctors and physical therapists are prescribing VR solutions to help patients ease pain, particularly after a serious injury. Elsewhere, VR is being employed to simulate operations and help surgeons learn.

Take Johnson & Johnson Institute, for instance. It has developed a VR platform for training and teaching doctors, surgeons, and medical students. A similar platform is used to train EMTs, firefighters, and other medical first responders so they can get a feeling of what they could face on the job.

This trend isn’t restricted to the United States. Many leading medical research institutions are betting heavily on virtual reality. Most of them have invested extensively in R&D associated with VR.

For instance, in the UK, Countess of Chester Hospital has collaborated with the University of Chester to use virtual reality headsets to help stroke patients re-learn certain day-to-day activities and tasks.

(4) Big Data

Big data has always been associated with business intelligence, but most recently has found a footing in the healthcare space. More specifically, it’s being integrated into health information systems (HIS) in a bid to streamline the collection, storage, and analysis of medical-related data.

The rise of big data in healthcare was actually not a question of if but when. After all, this comes hot on the heels of digitization of healthcare records, and popularity of value-based, consumer-centric care.

Healthcare actors are always faced with medical data challenges, like veracity, variety, velocity, and volume. That’s why more and more organizations, from university hospitals to assisted living facilities, are using Big Data to create platforms that can collect, store, and analyze healthcare data in a manner that’ll deliver actionable insights.

That being said, healthcare big data is expected to be valued at a whopping $68 billion by the year 2024 (as per Digital Authority Partners), encouraged by heavy investments in EHRs systems, practice management solutions and workforce management tools.

And there are plenty of benefits that come with embracing big data in healthcare:

It helps hospitals garner a 360-degree, holistic view of what doctors, patients and consumers want. This way, healthcare providers can improve care efficiency and personalize delivery with highly segmented patient profiles.

Big data has immense potential when it comes to growth. In specific, it allows healthcare organizations to zero in on geographical markets that are ripe for expansion.

Enhancing the patient journey becomes a breeze with the help of big data. In other words, big data insights can help bolster healthcare marketing efforts by gaining more in-depth about physician preferences, patient needs, and consumer behavior.

Big data is being used by healthcare stakeholders to identify patterns in organization growth, patient satisfaction, and health outcomes. This is an axis that can only be achieved by combing through vast, complex medical data.

(5) Advanced Wearables (Consumer Health Tech Devices)

A decade ago, health tech devices were nothing but step counters that could only keep track of distance. Gone are those days when health/fitness trackers could just do one thing.

Today’s wearable monitors are judged based on the technology stack packed into them, and consumers want devices that can monitor a lot more than just distance.

Just take a look at this list of the best heart rate monitors of 2019. They are all jam-packed with state of the art features and technology stack. In fact, most of them double as fitness trackers and heart rate monitors.

A classic example is the Omron Heartguide. It pulls triple duty: it’s a heart monitor, fitness tracker and blood pressure taker, all wrapped in one sleek-looking wrist wearable.

Great looks aside, Omron’s Heartguide is teeming with a series of health sensors under the hood. It’s hands down one of the best blood pressure wearables out there. Instead of using long, tangly straps, Heartguide uses tiny cuffs that can get your blood pressure reading in a jiffy.

That isn’t all. This nifty wearable not only reads your systolic/diastolic pressure but can also keep a tab on your sleep quality and patterns. Best of all, you can compare your health situation with guidelines given by the American Heart Association.

(6) Software as a Medical Device (SaMD)

Software use is almost ubiquitous in the healthcare industry. With over 1.5 million (WHO) medical equipment deployed globally, the amount of software used around, in and on top of these devices has dramatically risen.

This trend has been witnessed especially in the last two decades owing to the rise of IoT, as well as the popularity of mobile and availability of more robust & cheaper sensors.

With the emergence of cutting-edge technologies in healthcare, such as AI, big data, and cloud computing, software has become a vital part of advanced medical equipment.

In today’s healthcare space, there are essentially three kinds of medical device software: 1) software as a medical device (SaMD), 2) software in a medical device (SiMD), and software as an accessory to the medical equipment.

SaMDs are all the rage right now. These are pieces of software that serve on their own as medical products. They are revolutionizing nearly every aspect of healthcare from point of care diagnostics to therapeutics and even drug discovery.

Technically speaking, SaMDs include mobile apps, web-based platforms and any software that’s designed to prevent, mitigate, cure, diagnose or treat disease or any other medical condition.

An AI-based platform that looks at MRI scans to help physicians detect cardiovascular conditions or brain tumor is a great example of a SaMD. A software that helps radiologists turn on and operate an MRI machine, on the other hand, is not a SaMD.

Software as a medical device can help both the patient and clinicians in a diversity of ways:

●  SaMD can use complex patient data to predict, screen and eventually diagnose certain chronic conditions like lung cancer when they are still treatable.

●  Software can help in tracking patient progress can create alerts/recommendations for care providers and patients alike.

●  They can play a huge role in managing chronic diseases and conditions.

●  Digital therapeutics – SaMDs can be used to alleviate pain, as well as treat challenging conditions like opioid addiction.

Of course, challenges in the software as a medical device market remain, especially when it comes to regulations and compliance. Orthogonal has put together a comprehensive guide you can learn all about software as a medical device.

(7) Robotic Arms

Robotics arms, in conjunction with AI, are being used to perform highly sophisticated surgeries and an array of other medical operations. These robotics powered by machine learning are thought to be worth more than $40 billion to the healthcare industry, as per Venture Beat.

With big data to the rescue, these robotic arms analyze huge data from preoperative health records to direct surgeons and their instruments during an operation. In turn, this can result in a reduction in hospital stay (period) and readmission rate by up to 21 percent and 28 percent respectively.

The biggest draw is that robot-aided surgeries are fairly non-invasive, which means the patient doesn’t have to heal from large cuts and incisions. More crucially, robot arms can pull past records and use insights to help the surgeon decide the best surgical course of action.

Early results are indeed encouraging. According to one study mentioned by the Harvard Business Review, patients who underwent AI-assisted operations experienced 5x fewer complications than those who were operated by surgeons alone.

Take, for example, Heartlander. This tiny robot arm is designed to help cardiologists and heart surgeons map the heart before an operation. It can also be used to perform therapy over the heart’s surface.

(8) At-Home Medical Testing

At-home medical tests are giving medical equipment manufacturers are run for their money. These tests allow consumers to diagnose and therefore treat and manage certain diseases or conditions from the comfort of their own homes.

It’s predicted that home-use medical testing marketing will grow at a steady rate of 3.5 percent to reach $6.3 billion by 2026, according to Fact.MR.

At-home diagnostic tests have made massive leaps and strides from when pregnancy testing kits were introduced in 1976. Modern testing kits, for instance, can detect a lot more than whether someone is pregnant. They can now test for ovulation, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and even check for STIs.

The big milestone is that at-home medical tests are now available widely. Even kits for genetic testing such as 23andMe can currently be found in big-box retailers like Target.

At-home medical testing kits like imaware™ take it up a notch. This intuitive diagnostic test allows you to perform a blood check for Rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and other conditions right from the comfort of your home.

Imaware™ helps people who are otherwise healthy determine if they are at risk of these conditions. This not only improves access to diagnosis but can help detect celiac disease early with +95 percent accuracy.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that affects the small intestine when one consumes gluten. It affects more than 3 million Americans, with more than 90 percent of those affected undiagnosed.

Early diagnosis with imaware can do wonders for the patient. They can adopt a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet and prevent further damage to the small bowel which help digest and absorb most of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients the body needs.

This article was contributed by Julian Gnatenco @ JGBilling

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