The advent of technology has benefitted many industries like construction, communication, banking, insurance, government organizations and even healthcare. There are many who are now totally dependent on technology for their health issues. From the Internet information to heath gadgets, technology is revolutionizing the healthcare industry.
As per a Global law firm White & Case LLP and Mergermarket report, “The Cutting Edge: Shaping the Future of Digital Healthcare,” nine out of ten respondents identified that digital healthcare is quite important. This is reflected in the fact that close to 92% Life sciences companies and 96%Tech companies have decided to augment their investment in digital healthcare industry in the coming years.
In the book “The Creative Destruction of Medicine,” author Eric Topol who wears many hats as a cardiologist, geneticist and researcher talks about the democratization of medicine and how the power is slowly shifting into the patient’s own hands from the caregivers. This has been made possible in large part due to technological innovations that ensure that individuals can now monitor their vital signs and get a lot of medical information through portable devices at home.
Big data to the rescue
Big data analysis is making its presence felt in every aspect of technology and industry and healthcare is also not untouched by it. IBM researchers are developing a super computer that can keep track of patient’s medical history, stay updated on medical know how and analyze various treatment options to help aid physicians in choosing the right course of treatment.
Big data analysis can also help develop health plans that provide the medical care to the person needing it at the right time. This begins by analyzing various sources of information including insurance claims, patient provided data, and health risk assessments. This can help in identifying patients with what medical history and which demographics have the highest risk for particular ailments and preventive healthcare could be planned accordingly.
The Indian startup Inspirata is working on big data analytics based solutions for faster and accurate detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. The organization is working on building a big data repository of cancer data—Cancer Information Data Trust. This data repository shall be made available to physicians across the world who can mine all existing sources of Cancer related data in one place.
Reducing doctor and patient distances
AT&T virtual care is a tele health interface which allows a web conferencing, permitting direct conversation between the doctor and the patient. AT&T is also into remote patient monitoring program. It enables its wireless network to link with patient’s personal health devices. Some hospitals are using AT&T’s cloud-based Imaging and Information Management systems for patient’s data storage issues and improved information.
A translation program called the Omnifluent Health has been developed by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). Amidst various products it offers is an app that can help doctors translate their questions regarding medical history etc to any language they want, this is a boon for doctors seeking to provide healthcare beyond language and cultural barriers.
Google Glass is a wearable that doctors wear while doing a surgery. Dr. Rafael Grossman was the first surgeon to use Google Glass. It allows improved communication with patients and their family. It is also typical for physicians to be spending a chunk of their time on patient documentation and electronic health records (EHRs).
Augmedix a google glass application provides a smarter way for doctors to enter and later access patient information in real time without needing to open a computer every time. The Google glass can help connect and collaborate with physicians in remote locations through video conversations.
Apple Watch is a fitness device. Once you wear the watch, it will track your daily activity including the steps you have taken, miles you have run how many calories have you burnt and much more. It has got Stand, Move and Exercise rings. You have to set your goal and the Apple watch will measure and track the data for you. The custom sensor in Apple Watch calculates the heart rate all the day even when you are at rest. This Watch encourages healthy routine and awareness. A Transparency Market Research report says the adaption of wearables are increasing at an annual growth of 16.4% a year.
There are many apps that provides healthcare and wellness services. HealthTap is an app that allows a virtual medical appointment with a doctor and just get your enquiries solved. HelloMD permits you to find specialists and the best doctors as per your disease and connects you with the right doctor. Microsoft HealthVault is a mobile app that allows you to keep your medical records and share them with your doctor and other healthcare professionals.
Specialized apps in healthcare are also making their foray for example Text4Baby is for pregnant women and new mothers. The women can derive health-related advice and all kinds of help. Text4Babyruns on SMS messages. The messages are sent on the basis of women’s due date. Vida Health Coach is an iPhone app connects you with a personal health coach. In India the online portal iCliniq is helping patients access doctor consultation online and through phone, round the clock for urgent health concerns.
Telemedicine has become a crucial health care especially in rural areas since it aids in contact they are not able to touch base with their faraway doctors conveniently. According to a study in CHEST Journal, patients using telehealth in ICU were released from the ICU 20% earlier and had 26% lesser mortality rate than patients in a regular ICU.
Adam Higman, vice president of Soyring Consulting in St. Petersburg, Fla., says while telemedicine is not actually a new development, it is at a developing pace, and its scope is tremendously expanding.
Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation is on the forefront of providing telemedicine solutions in India through medical transcription in formats as varied as audios, videos, motion pictures, still images, graphics etc.
The benefits of Telehealth are many. Some of the benefits are that it is extremely cost effective and time saving. It is also good for busy professionals who do not get time to actually visit the doctors and the hospitals for their complete physical examination.
Technology in wellness and rehabilitation.
Rehabitic is a mobile rehabilitation service jointly launched by Telefonica, Spanish Mobile operator and Barcelona’s Hospital de la Esperanza. They have designed a knee brace, which has motion sensors and wireless connectivity, which helps toobserve patient’s improvement. The pilot was done in Spain, which revealed overwhelming results. There was a 50% growth in treatment adherence, a 62% decrease in travel times and waiting and 96% more contentment.
Similarly, there are devices that can monitor our sleep activity and offers suggestions basis the pattern it analyzes.
These are all signs that the digital and technological world is slowly invading the erstwhile cocooned world of medicines and is truly reforming it for the better. In fact, in our country the government’s focus on relying on technology to boost healthcare facilities is evident in the form of eHealth, which is a part of Digital India program of the government.
This program has envisaged concepts like ePharmacy, eDiagnostics, eInsurance, eReferrals, to help patients and service providers to access medical information in a jiffy and also avail insurance and other benefits offered by government in a seamless manner.
It is also planned to link the database of health records to Aadhar number of citizens to help them avoid long processes of registration at Government hospitals. This initiative will also help patients in getting OPD appointments, lab reports etc at government hospitals easily through internet and even through SMS.
We can only hope for more technological advances leading to reduction in costs as well as impacting many other aspects of our lives.
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