The ongoing convergence of biomedicine, IT, health data, wireless, and mobile have transformed healthcare from a human centred science to a study in communication and data. Today, more than ever, it is providing the right care at affordable cost, at the right time. Here are some ground breaking technologies that will help:
Dr Watson’ now has a new meaning – IBM (the creator of the world’s first super computer Big Blue), is now creating ‘Watson’ to help physicians be, well, better doctors. It is designed to help the busy doctor keep track of patient history, stay up-to-date on medical research and analyze treatment options. The computer has been trained by the best doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and within a few years, some patient will have a life saving diagnosis and prognosis from the new doctor on the block- the world’s smartest oncologist, Dr. Watson.
Doximity, a social networking app exclusive to physicians may be the ultimate test of faith on social media- doctors throughout US can now collaborate on Doximity, an app that has Konstantin Guericke, a cofounder of LinkedIn, on its board, and USD 27 million funding to its credit!
Come 2020, and much of what we know as traditional healthcare will change unrecognizably some of the interesting new changes on the cards are:
- Web-based portals that enable video interactions between the doctor and his patient. Supported by a huge range of web- integrated wireless monitoring devices, these telemedicine-enabled clinical e-visits, are built on digital diagnostic tools.
- Robotic or robotically enhanced surgery that allows physicians and surgeons to access detailed radiological information through an enhanced visualisation of the surgery with his/her 3D goggles.
- 3D printing of medical devices and organs
- ‘Scar-less’ surgery with entry through the oesophagus
- e the functionality of heart-failure, stroke, and paralysis patients.
Wearable technology: About 90 million wearable computing devices were shipped in 2014, of which approximately 74 million were bio-sensing. These devices are interoperable, integrated, engaging and outcomes focussed.
Big Data and analytics: Data derived from Electronic Health Records have their own governance that regulate data access and sharing, formed data partnerships. The strategies based on analytics of this data are changing the way healthcare is delivered. Driven by cheap computing power, these sophisticated analytics provide insights into patient behaviour, treatment costs and R&D. Thanks to the new mobile and smart phone technologies, a new healthcare engagement model is possible, that defines daily support.
The caveat here is that the technologies that can design safer, smarter, more intuitive healthcare applications can also create new risks – the biggest of them being inappropriate maintenance and usage of the applications and devices. In healthcare, this oversight or inadequate knowledge could mean wrong diagnosis, delayed reactions, wrong usage of devices, and could cost lives. A big reason is the transformation of the business of healthcare from easy manual records to digitalization that needs skill and training, which often become a bottleneck for adoption – especially in a country like India. Added to that is the obvious threat of security lapses – that make the job of the technology even more difficult – lapses that reveal patient data could mean big money in terms of lawsuits and other inconveniences.
Usually apps are put through technology and performance testing cycles, but once they are installed for use on the counter, the risks that surface are often unique. One big risk is the clash between the existing policy and systems and the new processes that will be set in place. More often than not, existing employees see it as a threat, or just another technology fad. It is difficult to derive benefits under such circumstances. The resulting errors could, again, come at a huge cost.
Data storage in the cloud can be an answer, and as experts believe, could be safer than server storage. However, connectivity is an issue in India and the fear of outages is a constant risk. What is needed is procedures that help manage unplanned system outages that may prove disastrous in the event of an unexpected power or connectivity failure. Of course, this only means that correctly working technology is not enough, the technology aspect has to work well with the end user aspect as well – both the technical and the operational aspects.
Solutions will be found, and operations will be streamlined, but there is no doubt in anyone’s mind about the applicability of ICT in the healthcare industry. As patients become more informed, doctors become more specialised and diagnosis becomes more complicated, spending on what really matters will be the business objective of healthcare organisations- and ICT is where their money should lay.