There is no doubt technology has huge potential for improving the healthcare system. Here are four areas to watch;
Wearables are becoming more and more popular, especially as people seem more inclined to track exercise, diet, weight, sleeping patterns and other personal data.
Tracking personal health data has only recently become popular; and our knowledge of our own bodies has already been increased. It seems inevitable that the way we understand and look for healthcare will be transformed in a positive way in the coming years.
An issue which healthcare technology providers will have to overcome is the challenge of integrating wearable data with existing data to create personal health records that can be stored in the long term.
As well as tracking health data, wearables can also manage the symptoms of illnesses. Philips is currently working on a ‘fall-prevention’ wearable device that uses analytics and algorithms to predict when a patient might fall and warn them in advance.
Wearables will clearly become one of the main advances in the healthcare sector in the future; they are already extremely popular and it is just a matter of time before they play a huge part in reshaping the healthcare system.
The lack of doctors in both developed and developing countries is a massive problem for the healthcare sector. Even though governments and universities are attempting to push more academics into becoming a doctor, the only probably way of fixing this issue is through the wide scale introduction of technology.
The chief executive of Your.MD (a mobile app that uses artificial intelligence to mimic a consultation with a GP), Matteo Berlucchi, states that “it’s not a matter of replacing doctors but complementing them”. Your.MD does exactly that; answering three key questions: ‘what is wrong with me?’, ‘what is the solution?’ and ‘where can I get help?’. This app takes the easier tasks off the hands of real doctors and places it in the hands of an AI; giving doctors more time.
Although there are a plethora of mobile health apps on the marketplace, there is a risk that poor quality ones will cause people to lose trust in health apps through bad experiences. This is a risk that should be taken though, as App Doctors will allow human doctors to use their time more effectively.
Another way technology will shape the healthcare sector in the future is through telehealth. Many GP interactions are already conducted via phone, but they are increasingly occurring via video call.
Technology is already being developed that can allow some vital signs measurements to be done simultaneously via video call at the same time as a consultation.
Although most interactions with a GP are unlikely to occur like this, using video call as a method of telehealth will undoubtedly be more effective and save time and money for both the healthcare system and patients.
Constraints on both financial and human resources within the healthcare system has brought about the idea of digital therapy for mental conditions such as anxiety, depression and insomnia. This market is already starting to emerge; with apps such as Pzizz: an app to help people with sleeping problems, and Big White Wall: an app for peer to peer mental health support; becoming popular on the marketplace.
An issue with digital therapy apps like these however, is that they don’t have the advantage of delivering empathetic responses to patients, whereas direct therapy from a human doctor comes with empathy. This is a huge danger for the healthcare system, but in a sense the ‘human touch’ is already being lost because of the pressures placed on doctors and the lack of doctors in the healthcare system at the present time.
If technology can be introduced and integrated in a considerate way, it will no doubt improve the healthcare system for both doctors and patients. Technology is starting to become the main focus point in every aspect of life, so it is about time it’s properly integrated into the healthcare system.