5 Ways Tech is Transforming the Healthcare Industry
Whether it’s information-sharing between patients and doctors or aiding in a high-risk surgery, it’s clear that dynamic applications of technology are well underway in disrupting the healthcare industry.
TECH AT OUR FINGERTIPS
Today’s infographic from the Online Medical Care highlights healthcare areas where tech is breaking barriers. Here are five ways that technology is impacting the sector, ranging from AI to nanomedicine:
Artificial intelligence will have a dramatic impact on many industries, and healthcare is no exception.
A large share of healthcare executives are already applying artificial intelligence in their operations, with data showing plans to increase budgets last year.
|Healthcare uses of AI||Adoption (2017)||Adoption (2018E)|
|Clinical decision support||46%||59%|
|Medical costs / health plan||21%||38%|
|Patient safety and quality||25%||33%|
|Supply chain management||13%||21%|
As the technology becomes more developed and widespread, it’s expected that AI could help diagnose strokes, eye disease, heart disease, skin cancer, and other conditions.
Also known as telehealth or telemedicine, virtual healthcare allows patients and doctors to touch base remotely using technology such as video conferencing or mobile apps. Many patients are also becoming comfortable using wearable technology to monitor any changes in their health – and sharing that data with their physicians.
Convenience, ease of use, and travel times to their closest doctor are main reasons why patients choose virtual care. On the flip side, many are concerned about the quality of care, or fear a loss of a personal connection with a doctor.
If all patients chose virtual healthcare over face-to-face visits, it could save the U.S. health system $7 billion annually – while the time savings would “free up” the equivalent of 37,000 doctors.
Nanomedicine is rapidly evolving field which controls individual atoms and molecules at the extremely minute “nanoscale” of 1 to 100 nanometers. To put that into perspective, a single newspaper sheet is about 100,000 nm thick.
Nanomedicine is mainly used to effectively diagnose, treat, and prevent various diseases. Compared to conventional medicines, it’s much better at precise targeting and delivery systems, paving the way towards combating complex conditions such as cancer.
The global nanomedicine market could be worth over $350 billion by 2025.
Although it’s normally been associated with entertainment, virtual reality is making waves in healthcare as well. The multi-sensory, immersive experience that VR provides can benefit both physicians and patients:
- Healthcare worker training
VR can be used to train surgeons in a realistic and low-risk simulated environment.
- Physical and mental health
VR offers therapeutic potential and rehabilitation for acute pain and anxiety disorders.
VR is thus considered a cost-effective and efficient tool for both teaching and treatment, and the VR healthcare services market is expected to grow from $8.9 million in 2017 to an expected $285 million in 2022.
3D printing has come a long way since its debut, especially in its uses in the healthcare industry. The technology offers faster prototypes, creating everything from personalized prosthetics to “poly-pills” at a fraction of the cost.
The customizable aspect of 3D printing is revolutionizing organ transplants and tissue repair, and it’s even able to produce realistic skin for burn victims.
Last but certainly not least, robotic surgery is sweeping through hospitals. It allows doctors to perform delicate and complex procedures that might be otherwise impossible.
Typically, surgeons control a device with a camera and mechanical arms, giving them a high-def view of the surgical site. According to the Mayo Clinic, this method generally:
- Enhances precision, flexibility, and control
- Comes with fewer complications such as infections
- Results in less obvious scars as it is minimally invasive
While technological adoption into the medical field doesn’t come without challenges, the value is clear – and we’ve barely scratched the surface of tech-driven possibilities in the healthcare industry.
The Global Inequality Gap, and How It’s Changed Over 200 Years
This visualization shows the global inequality gap — a difference in the standards of living around the world, as well as how it’s changed over 200 years.
How the Global Inequality Gap Has Changed In 200 Years
What makes a person healthy, wealthy, and wise? The UN’s Human Development Index (HDI) measures this by one’s life expectancy, average income, and years of education.
However, the value of each metric varies greatly depending on where you live. Today’s data visualization from Max Roser at Our World in Data summarizes five basic dimensions of development across countries—and how our average standards of living have evolved since 1800.
Health: Mortality Rates and Life Expectancy
Child mortality rates and life expectancy at birth are telltale signs of a country’s overall standard of living, as they indicate a population’s ability to access healthcare services.
Iceland stood at the top of these ranks in 2017, with only a 0.21% mortality rate for children under five years old. On the other end of the spectrum, Somalia had the highest child mortality rate of 12.7%—over three times the current global average.
While there’s a stark contrast between the best and worst performing countries, it’s clear that even Somalia has made significant strides since 1800. At that time, the global average child mortality rate was a whopping 43%.
Lower child mortality is also tied to higher life expectancy. In 1800, the average life expectancy was that of today’s millennial—only 29 years old:
Today, the global average has shot up to 72.2 years, with areas like Japan exceeding this benchmark by more than a decade.
Education: Mean and Expected Years of Schooling
Education levels are measured in two distinct ways:
- Mean years: the average number of years a person aged 25+ receives in their lifetime
- Expected years: the total years a 2-year old child is likely to spend in school
In the 1800s, the mean and expected years of education were both less than a year—only 78 days to be precise. Low attendance rates occurred because children were expected to work during harvests, or contracted long-term illnesses that kept them at home.
Since then, education levels have drastically improved:
|Mean Years of Schooling||Expected Years of schooling|
|Global Average||8.4 years||12.7 years|
|Highest||Germany 🇩🇪: 14.1 years||Australia 🇦🇺: 22.9 years|
|Lowest||Burkina Faso 🇧🇫: 1.5 years||South Sudan 🇸🇸: 4.9 years|
Research shows that investing in education can greatly narrow the inequality gap. Just one additional year of school can:
- Raise a person’s income by up to 10%
- Raise average annual GDP growth by 0.37%
- Reduce the probability of motherhood by 7.3%
- Reduce the likelihood of child marriage by >5 percentage points
Education has a strong correlation with individual wealth, which cascades into national wealth. Not surprisingly, average income has ballooned significantly in two centuries as well.
Wealth: Average GDP Per Capita
Global inequality levels are the most stark when it comes to GDP per capita. While the U.S. stands at $54,225 per person in 2017, resource-rich Qatar brings in more than double this amount—an immense $116,936 per person.
The global average GDP per capita is $15,469, but inequality heavily skews the bottom end of these values. In the Central African Republic, GDP per capita is only $661 today—similar to the average income two hundred years ago.
A Virtuous Cycle
These measures of development clearly feed into one another. Rising life expectancies are an indication of a society’s growing access to healthcare options. Compounded with more years of education, especially for women, this has had a ripple effect on declining fertility rates, contributing to higher per capita incomes.
People largely agree on what goes into human well-being: life, health, sustenance, prosperity, peace, freedom, safety, knowledge, leisure, happiness… If they have improved over time, that, I submit, is progress.
As technology accelerates the pace of change across these indicators, will the global inequality gap narrow more, or expand even wider?
The Future of Nanotechnology in Medicine
This infographic highlights some of the most promising nanotechnology breakthroughs in medicine, from ‘smart pills’ to targeted cancer treatment.
The Future of Nanotechnology in Medicine
Around the world, researchers are increasingly thinking smaller to solve some of the biggest problems in medicine.
Though most biological processes happen at the nano level, it wasn’t until recently that new technological advancements helped in opening up the possibility of nanomedicine to healthcare researchers and professionals.
Today’s infographic, which comes to us from Best Health Degrees, highlights some of the most promising research in nanomedicine.
What is Nanotechnology?
Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular level. The field combines elements of physics and molecular chemistry with engineering to take advantage of unique properties that occur at nanoscale.
One practical example of this technology is the use of tiny carbon nanotubes to transport drugs to specific cells. Not only do these nanotubes have low toxicity and a stable structure, they’re an ideal container for transporting drugs directly to the desired cells.
Small Systems, Big Applications
While many people will be most familiar with nanotech as the technology powering Iron Man’s suit, real world breakthroughs at the nanoscale will soon be saving lives in healthcare.
Here are a few ways nanotechnology is shaping the future of medical treatment:
1. Smart Pills
While smart pill technology is not a new idea — a “pill cam” was cleared by the FDA in 2001 — researchers are coming up with innovative new applications for the concept.
For example, MIT researchers designed an ingestible sensor pill that can be wirelessly controlled. The pill would be a “closed-loop monitoring and treatment” solution, adjusting the dosage of a particular drug based on data gathered within the body (e.g. gastrointestinal system).
An example of this technology in action is the recent FDA-approved smart pill that records when medication was taken. The product, which is approved for people living with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, allows patients to track their own medication history through a smartphone, or to authorize physicians and caregivers to access that information online.
2. Beating the Big C
Nearly 40% of humans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime, so any breakthrough in cancer treatment will have a widespread impact on society.
On the key issues with conventional chemotherapy and radiation treatments is that the body’s healthy cells can become collateral damage during the process. For this reason, researchers around the world are working on using nano particles to specifically target cancer cells.
Oncology-related drugs have the highest forecasted worldwide prescription drug sales, and targeting will be a key element in the effectiveness of these powerful new drugs.
Medical implants — such as knee and hip replacements — have improved the lives of millions, but a common problem with these implants is the risk of post-surgery inflammation and infection. In many cases, symptoms from an infection are detected so late that treatment is less effective, or the implant will need to be replaced all together.
Nanoscale sensors embedded directly into the implant or surrounding area could detect infection much sooner. As targeted drug delivery becomes more feasible, it could be possible to administer treatment to an infected area at the first sign of infection.
Examples like this show the true promise of nanotechnology in the field of medicine. Before long, gathering data from within the body and administering treatments in real-time could move from science fiction to the real world.
10,000 years ago, man domesticated plants and animals, now it’s time to domesticate molecules.
– Professor Susan Lindquist
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