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 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
Visualizing Healthcare Spending by Country
Healthcare spending can be measured as a proportion of GDP, by admin costs, and per capita—and the United States comes in first in every category.
How Much Do OECD Countries Spend on Healthcare?
When you start feeling ill, the first line of defense is typically to have a doctor assess the symptoms—but how much you end up paying for a visit differs greatly by region.
Today’s interactive visualization was created by HealthDataViz consultant Lindsay Betzendahl, who also founded #ProjectHealthViz. The data considers how healthcare spending by country stacks up across the 36 Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD) members, and how it has changed since 2010.
One thing is clear—the United States comes in first place in each category, but that’s not necessarily a good thing:
|🇺🇸 United States||🌐 OECD Average|
|Healthcare Spending (% of GDP)||16.9% (#1)||8.8%|
|Admin Costs as % of Health Spend||8.3% (#1)*||~3%|
|Per Capita Prices (Current PPPs, USD)||$10,586 (#1)||$3,992|
*Although Costa Rica’s figure was higher in 2016, more recent data is not yet available.
Let’s look at each individual cost category, to see what else we can learn.
What Portion of GDP Goes Towards Health?
Population health is a strong determinant in quality of life. As such, how much a country spends on healthcare as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) can be an important indicator.
The U.S. spends 16.9% of GDP on its healthcare, nearly double the OECD average of 8.8%. That’s also over 4 percentage points (p.p.) above Switzerland, which ranks second with 12.2% healthcare spending by GDP.
The problem? While Switzerland consistently ranks as having one of the best healthcare systems in the world, the U.S. lags behind—which means that expenditures are not always translating into better health outcomes for patients.
Where’s the Money Going?
Looking after the health of millions of people is a lot of work, and this is where spending on healthcare administration and financing comes into play. Funds are allocated to medical resource providers, who manage everything from health records to salaries and insurance bills.
The U.S. spends about 8.3% of its total healthcare expenditures on these complex costs today, which is a marginal increase from 7.5% in 2010. Interestingly, Costa Rica’s healthcare spending on the same metric was even higher in 2016, at 9.5% of the total.
On the bright side, Mexico has been making strides in the past few years: administrative spending plunged from 10.3% in 2013, down to 4.6% in 2017.
Globally, advancements in health-tech are helping to reduce costs by streamlining tedious processes. However, it’s still not enough—and these immense costs trickle down to patients.
How Much Does Each Person Shell Out?
Over the past eight years, a majority of OECD countries have seen their healthcare spending per capita climb, with Luxembourg and Greece being the only exceptions. The average OECD country’s spend was $3,992 per capita in 2018, up from $3,080 in 2010—nearly a 30% increase.
However, the U.S. experiences the most dramatic sticker shock by far. At $10,586 per head, the U.S. average is already more than double the OECD average. What’s more, this is a 33.3% increase from $7,939 in healthcare spending per capita in 2010.
As the U.S. healthcare reform debate around prices and quality of care rages on, it’s important to remember that healthy people are the backbone of any country’s long-term economic growth.
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