2016 has been a year of innovation in the health technology sector, and 2017 looks to build upon the successes. Here, we look ahead to three areas of health technology that look set to disrupt the health and care sectors in the near future.
Robotic health providers
Medical robots that could work in rural or less advantaged areas performing routines and managing patient care, even when healthcare professionals and doctors can’t do it themselves. This isn’t actually too much of a long shot; there is already a ‘robot’ that has been developed exactly for this purpose; the RP-VITA Remote Presence Robot. Effectively, this robot has a two-way screen that allows the doctor and patient to communicate in real time and gives them the ability to talk face to face about the patient’s problems in a more professional manner than just over the phone. If implemented throughout the healthcare system, this kind of technology would dramatically improve efficiency by eliminating those time-consuming house visits and allowing doctors to focus on tasks inside the hospital.
In addition to improving patients’ lives, robotic health providers would help healthcare professional complete their tasks in a more efficient and safer way and would help them complete their tasks without injury. The HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb), for example, is a suit that doctors/ nurses/ physicians can wear to provide more strength and stability when working with patients and reduce fatigue and injury. Companies that attempt to produce such robotic systems will have to put their resources into privacy concerns; but with proper safeguards in place, robotic health providers can greatly improve the lives of patients and the working environment for healthcare professionals.
Advanced wearables for Patient monitoring
Health wearables are used by many people; whether for tracking daily activity, maintaining a healthy lifestyle or keeping fit. In this case, surely similar technology should be introduced properly into the healthcare system to help healthcare providers collect patient data, such as vital signs, blood pressure, blood glucose, heart rate and electrocardiograms. This data can be instantly transmitted to EHR’s (electronic health records) and healthcare providers, who can, in turn, use this data as a source point for treating patients.
Wearable health monitors are extremely effective at providing the whole story of a patient’s health; for example, they can provide data about long-term heart rate rather than just one reading when the patient comes in for their check-up. While there are issues about data privacy and patient confidentiality, advanced wearables have the potential to improve patient care significantly while also improving efficiency and being more cost effective than current data collection methods.
3D printing and other such-like advancements have taken the world of health and care by storm in 2016, but it seems like there is much to do before the technology reaches its full potential. With the introduction of 3D printed prosthetic limbs, a new opportunity has arisen; engineers are working on a prosthetic interface that is compatible with the human nervous system. This would allow prosthetic limbs to be controlled by the mind and even feel, just like normal limbs.
Part of the reason there is so much potential for 3D printed solutions is the entry cost into the healthcare system. The process used to create prosthetic limbs means the items can be assembled directly from a digital model, increasing precision, lowering cost and removing room for error. Previous manufacturing techniques for 3D printing relied on the removal of mistakes from the print, whereas new techniques get around this issue.
In relative terms, 3D printing is still extremely expensive and creating prints that work exactly as intended can be a massive challenge; but in the next few years, we could see 3D printed prosthetics at the heart of healthcare technology innovation.