Tech advances infecting our health

Health

digital pills

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has infiltrated the healthcare industry. What does this mean for the future of GPs and other health practitioners? Are businesses ready to embrace AI and other technological developments, to drive efficiencies whilst improving health outcomes? This postcard provides an overview of how AI is disrupting healthcare as we know it and the need for business transformation.

Get ready, your next medical checkup is likely to be with ‘Dr Google’ or at least a machine which is far more sophisticated and of the like. Experts are calling it a ‘super computer’ which can provide a significantly more accurate diagnosis than a physician would ever be physically capable of, as well as being able to provide the best treatment advice.

Through AI, the computer is able to extract data from trillions of sources in just a second, and evaluate all relevant information including patient history, symptoms, illnesses and treatments.

robot surgeon

So what does this mean for the future of our GPs?

With new medical research and breakthroughs occurring so quickly and at a constant pace, it’s impossible for any human to keep up-to-date with, and what’s more have the ability to integrate, such information to accurately aid their patients. There are hundreds of thousands of different illnesses that have ‘like symptoms’ and physicians are limited in their ability to diagnose based on their learnings. Therefore, there is no doubt that patients will actually be better served by the data-driven process that is AI analytics.

It is anticipated that at least 80% of physician work, if not more, will become obsolete as a result of AI. Whilst this statistic may sound alarming, it is a fact that in today’s tech-savvy world patients are becoming empowered through the Internet, already researching their symptoms, self-diagnosing and treating themselves.

It is expected that AI analytics will prove most beneficial in areas where updates are occurring rapidly and for diagnosing rare conditions that most doctors would have never been exposed to, in areas such as oncology.

The benefit of AI for practitioners is that they will be able to dedicate their time in better treating and caring for their patients.

Where may disruption occur next?

Are the GPs the only health professional likely to be impacted by the disruptive forces of AI? Whilst some will argue that healthcare has been one of the slowest adopters of innovative ideas and technological developments, let’s have a look at the progress made so far to identify where disruption is likely to occur next.

Remote monitoring

Healthcare providers are utilising telemedicine and medical devices to provide home healthcare services to those patients who are immobile or are located in remote and rural areas. Follow-up appointments are being conducted by video calling technology and wearable technology is allowing the patients’ vitals to be reported regularly whilst at home and in real time.

An example of such wearable technology includes glucose monitoring devices which notify both doctor and patient when levels do make a dangerous change.

Mobile health applications

Patients are actively participating in their own healthcare through the introduction of mobile apps. Together with wearable devices such as body sensors and medical ‘tricorders’ the smartphone has become a diagnostic tool, integrated into routine and portable care. Apps are also being largely utilised by the health-conscious to personally monitor their daily physical activity or nutrition.

Robotic-assisted activities

Robots are being integrated into surgical teams for their precision and are allowing for less invasive procedures.

Pharmacy robots have been installed in many hospitals around the world in order to reduce dispensing errors and improve the speed and efficiency of the dispensing process and restocking. Automated methadone dispensing is just one example of their use in the pharmaceutical sector.

Robots have also been introduced in aged care facilities to attend to physical and monitoring rolls such as lifting, cleaning, bathing but also in aiding mental stimulation amongst dementia patients etc.

DNA testing

DNA testing is already occurring at both pharmacy and hospital level to determine the patient’s response to certain drugs.

It will become the norm to do DNA testing before treating a patient in order to determine which treatment plan is optimal for that patient’s genetic makeup.

Bio printing

3D printers are playing a vital role in regenerative medicine. The printers use a digital model to build up living cell structures through multiple printed layers. Medical implants, false teeth, hip and knee replacements via 3D printing are not too far from commercialization. The recreation of body tissue, bone, stem cells, cartilage, skin and parts of organs from live cells, exhibits the endless possibilities which bio-printing may offer.

3D printing is also being used in cancer research, to recreate diseased cells to study how tumors grow and develop, as well as creating surgical tools such as forceps, scalpel handles and clamps at a fraction of the cost.

Where to from here?

digital human augmentation 

As we try to envisage what the future of the medical world and the human body may look like we now take a closer look into the technology pipeline, already in early stages of development, to help paint the picture and identify which businesses are likely to be most disrupted.

Human augmentation is now focusing its attention to digital technology with advancements in wearable devices such as Google Glass, a smartphone-like pair of eyeglasses which allows the user to communicate with the internet via voice commands or even via embedded devices. Google Glass has been used by surgeons to stream live surgeries for students to observe.

The next big advance likely to be introduced is embedded technology in humans, one which may be controversial amongst society. It is expected that tiny devices in our body would be able to perform a number of tasks from tracking biometric data and diagnosing disease to releasing chemicals where our vitals are not at optimal levels and even imposing on our vision with infrared technology or real-time data (think Terminator). Such embedded devices may be created using nanorobotics where microscopic robots live in our bloodstream and take automatic corrective action when needed.

Human experimentation and clinical trials will become a thing of the past as the creation of virtual patients is among us. We will see an increase in testing samples in shorter periods of time and thus quicker advances in research and development.

And then we have the cognitive tech which is the ability to interact with a computer and have the computer learn and ultimately generate new learnings. Moving away from the traditional programming of computers which was to achieve a pre-defined method of actions quickly, cognitive solutions will be able to work with big amounts of data, make decisions and uncover completely new insights changing the world of R&D and medicine forever.

Are robots taking over our health management?

It is apparent from the direction of the technological developments that machines are likely to do more of the analysis and diagnostic work while humans will take a more proactive role in maintaining good health and preventing serious illness. Robots are expected to do more given the precision and the efficiency that AI brings, however, they are just not capable (at least not yet) to meet our emotional and social needs. Hence, GPs, nurses, pharmacists, doctors and other medical professions are safe…at least for now! But watch this space – last week, Tasmania's North-West Regional Hospital announced the trialing of the first humanoid robot, Dr NAO, to study patients’ reaction to a robot in a care provider role. The acceptance rate exceeded researchers’ expectations.

Hence, businesses operating in the healthcare space need to be aware of the disruption brought about by AI, transform their operating model and embrace technological developments to drive efficiencies whilst improving patient outcomes. Whilst the health sector has not yet had massive change foisted upon it, as some other industries have, change will come and there will be winners and losers.

How can we help?

Our health sector specialists help their clients adapt to the ever changing and disruptive business environment, resulting in sustainable business practices.

Our team transforms businesses by identifying opportunities where AI can be implemented throughout the business process to help drive business efficiencies, engage customers and gain competitive advantage.

If you would like to discuss how this may apply to your business, please contact one of our team members listed below.

SOURCES:

Technology, Health and Health Care
Tech Trends shaping the future of medicine – part 1
Tech Trends shaping the future of medicine – part 2
Cognitive Tech is the R&D Game-Changer
5 trends for the future of healthcare in Australia
Will physicians become obsolete?
Trans-human resources – Acuity, September 2016 Vol3 Issue 8 pg 20 – 24
7 major advancements 3D printing is making in the medical field
Is Pharma Ready for the Future?
Examining the role of new technology in pharmacy: now and in the future


 

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