New technologies for improving healthcare

By Georg Tichy

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Various thought leaders have opined that we are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as seen by the fact that new technologies are disrupting all industries, disciplines, and economies. By 2020, the digital universe will be 44 trillion gigabytes. This amount is doubling every two years.  Big Data will become so large that artificial intelligence (AI) will make sense of it for us. Already Google has launched the Google Deepmind Health project to scrutinize the data of patients’ medical records and provide better and faster service.

Mitchell Weiss, a robotics safety expert, identified the top three trends impacting occupational health and safety in 2017. They involve complexity of automation, collaborative automation, and complexity of user interface. Along with this there is an increase use of Big Data, artificial intelligence, and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) to do medical work.

Internet of Things (IoT) — the ability to connect any device to the Internet through an on and off switch — is a major component of telemedicine, which allows healthcare professionals to communicate with people long distance and provide consultation, diagnosis and treatment of various medical conditions. IOT Telemedicine, which has been gaining in popularity, is now expanding globally.

A Brief Primer on the Internet of Things

Internet of Things is a concept that can apply to things like washing machines, coffee makers, headphones, even parts of machines. The research and advisory firm Gartner estimates  that by 2020, more than 26 billion devices will be connected to IoT. Some analysts say the figure could go as high as 100 billion. In only a short time, our society will be a network of connected “things.” And these “things” include the robots and other devices that are connected to the Internet and can therefore consult with physicians and patients thousands of miles away.

Internet of Things in Healthcare

The concept is new to the medical field, and is quickly gaining traction. A 2003 study by the World Health Organization revealed that 50 percent of medicines aren’t taken as directed. So Proteus Digital Health decided to join the growing roster of companies involved in IoT-linked healthcare, aiming to reduce the number of non-compliant individuals by adding ingestible sensors to medicines and medical devices.

Roche recently came out with a Bluetooth-powered self-testing monitor that tracks patients receiving treatment or are at high risk for such coagulant-related conditions as stroke, heart attack or pulmonary embolism to check for signs of clotting, which should reduce the overall number of office visits. And the cloud research firm Medidata has partnered up with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to introduce a tracking system to monitor people being treated for multiple myeloma.

Contact lens are also being affected by this new technology, where non-invasive sensors are placed inside contacts, which doctors hope will help people suffering from presbyopia. Scientists also believe they will help detect diabetes by testing glucose levels in the tears. Another IoT-connected technology created for diabetics is the Open Artificial Pancreas System (OpenAPS), designed to monitor and equalize a diabetic’s blood glucose level. IoT is also being used to help track and treat such conditions as depression, Parkinson’s and arthritis.

In-person and online consultations will increase in efficiency. In the UK Babylon is an app that allows users to report symptoms of their illness to the app.  The app uses a patient’s medical history and common medical knowledge to advise patients. The app will remind users about taking their medications and will follow-up to check on the progress of their recovery. In 2024, doctors will use wearable technology to monitor patients’ health information in real-time. This technology will also enable doctors to track the effects of certain medications, activities and behaviors of patients. Waiting room time will diminish. People will fill out forms and set up schedules outside of medical facilities, and doctors will have more pre-visit information on patients. Today, patients are already starting to connect with their doctors through video calls, rather than driving to the doctor’s office. This trend will be very popular for minor ailments, and it will account for 25% to 35% of doctor visits in the future.

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