Think ‘technology in healthcare’ and you immediately conjure up images of the latest tools, lasers or advanced robots used for precision treatments. The advent of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and the Internet of Things (IoT), though, is changing how we view medical technology.
Modern healthcare is shifting away from the operation theatre and waiting rooms into patients’ homes. In Asia alone, remote monitoring and homecare solutions that incorporate IoT are expected to generate $500 million this year. The immediate benefits could be an increased efficiency in healthcare delivery.
For instance, smart chatbots take advantage of natural language processing to connect patients with doctors and schedule appointments automatically. The assistant delivers test outcomes on the phone and allows fast payment of bills. It could also help patients stay on track with their dosage with regular reminders. An example is found in Bengaluru, where Manipal Hospital is using IBM’s Watson AI to help doctors diagnose patients with better and lay out a comprehensive treatment plan.
Blockchain can be another exciting application. With its potential for a secure, decentralised database, electronic medical records could be shared across hospitals. A patient could potentially walk into any hospital and consult a doctor who would already have their case history on file. This is dependent on the ethics around sharing private medical data.
As smart devices and high-speed connectivity continue to penetrate India, IoT devices could usher in remote patient monitoring solutions. A more advanced version of the FitBit, for example, could send detailed physical data to a physician, who could diagnose medicines without the patient having to come in. This could be of huge benefit in rural areas, with hospitals often far away.
Virtual Reality could be of use in post-surgery care. A virtual or augmented environment that mirrors real-life scenarios could be used to treat patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Rehabilitations could occur without putting them in physical danger. Some hospitals are already using immersive videos to distract patients and reducing perceived pain.
Surgeries could be drastically different with the use of Augmented Reality. A real-time, 3D model of a liver could show up in the doctor’s field of vision, allowing them to operate with precision. Patients in rural India are often hesitant with a doctor; advances in brain interfaces such as Musk’s Neuralink could allow doctors to experience a patient’s pain, making diagnosis more accurate.
As healthcare becomes more technological, security comes into greater focus. While it is the governments that must provide a framework, patients and care providers need to learn ‘good’ user habits and ensure that a vital component of healthcare – trust – is not compromised.