How Technology from these 5 industries is changing healthcare
Estimated reading time: 6-8 minutes
From remote monitoring and telehealth through to VR operating theatres and robot surgeons, it’s an exciting time for healthcare technology.
From remote monitoring and telehealth through to VR operating theatres and robot surgeons, it’s an exciting time for healthcare technology. Technologies that started life in other industries have been making their way into the medical world, evolving and scaling alongside healthcare needs and providing new, efficient ways to improve care and save lives. Here are five tech trends from outside healthcare that have done just that:
From boardroom to doctors’ offices
The Mercy Virtual Care Center in St. Louis, Missouri is just one example of telemedicine, which takes corporate meeting solutions and adapts it to the medical world. In a four-story ‘hospital without beds’, the center has already monitored 3,800 patients remotely since 2016 – eliminating the need for some patients to ever visit a traditional hospital. Virtual-care nurses examine patients over video chat, using wireless vital sign monitors to measure the likes of blood pressure and heart rate, with the data sent directly to other HCPs.
Giving patients the chance to stay in their homes while they recover can go a long way to increasing comfort and quality of care, if for instance they are elderly or less mobile.
Virtual Reality for immersive surgery training
Although video game producers have been developing VR for some time, it’s now broken through into mainstream and professional areas. California-based Osso VR is one of the companies who are developing healthcare solutions using VR, allowing surgeons to train themselves on orthopedic procedures. When using the platform, users can freely look and move around in a simulated operating theater with a VR headset, using hand attachments to manipulate virtual tools and operate on a ‘patient’. To make the experience as realistic as possible the program even grades performance based on time, accuracy, and other metrics.
When this type of technology gains more widespread adoption, more doctors and surgeons will be better educated and prepared, with the flexibility to train as often as they need in their own time. Not only will surgeries be safer, patients can feel more at ease with the knowledge that their doctor has honed their skills through hours of virtual training.
Assembly robots are becoming surgeons
Thanks to their speed, accuracy and tireless nature, robots are steadily changing manufacturing processes – particularly when they are assembling a car which requires both precision and heavy lifting. It’s these attributes that make them a strong choice for performing surgeries where they can reduce human error through fatigue or imprecision.
These abilities are the reason that robots are increasingly being used in a variety of medical applications. Surgical robots, such as the da Vinci, can perform many difficult and complicated procedures that require exact skill on the surgeon’s part. Acting as replacement hands for a human surgeon, da Vinci delicately navigates its arms as the surgeon controls it from a nearby computer terminal. As a result of mechanical precision, surgical incisions have become smaller, with less pain during recovery.
While there are still many technological, security, and ethical issues to address, it’s likely that artificial intelligence will someday be a key feature in surgical robotics. With advanced algorithms and access to vast amounts of data, surgical robots may one day plan and perform entire operations with little or no intervention from their human counterparts.
Location sharing can be a lifesaver
GPS is a godsend to those of us who don’t have a great sense of direction. Whether it’s a car-ride arranged at a tap, or accommodation arrangements, we no longer need to consult maps to know where we are, or where we need to go.
With this in mind, location technologies can also help patients. For instance, a doctor-on-demand service for select cities in the US called Heal uses an iOS or Android app to allow patients to share their location or request a doctor when and where convenient, as well as paying for them at the same time.
Location awareness could also help save a life in an emergency situation. A company called PulsePoint has developed a database of crowdsourced Automated External Defibrillator (AED) location information, meaning that their app can point people towards life-saving equipment and even provide instructions on its use. Also, PulsePoint users who are citizen first-responders or CPR-certified can volunteer to be alerted when a local emergency occurs, and be given its location.
Film directors, drones and deliveries
Drones have given filmmakers a whole new way to set up aerial shots and awe viewers with sweeps of nature and cities – while making the whole process cheaper, safer and more creative at the same time. These mechanical marvels have also shown great promise in the medical world thanks to their agile nature and long-range abilities.
Natural disasters can destroy infrastructures and road networks – making it very difficult for emergency services to reach people or even assess the situation. By using drones, they can quickly get a birds-eye view on the disaster area to locate where people need help and even deliver medical supplies without endangering the rescuers. For example, Drone delivery company, Zipline International has reported the successful delivery of more than 4,100 units of blood in Rwanda in just over a year, demonstrating how they can reach difficult or remote locations. Then, we have Flirtey – a company that is launching a service to deliver AED devices following 911 emergency calls.
Driven by technological innovation, the medical industry is going through an incredible transformation. However, strained budgets, regulation and long trial times provide challenges for forward thinking medical professionals in an industry where adoption is hard-won. These challenges will always be present in the healthcare, but the potential benefits are too difficult to let pass by.
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