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Innovative technologies that changed healthcare

A wide array of digital innovations have been revolutionizing healthcare and there’s no doubt: technology will stay in the medical industry. 

Medical technology has evolved to connect patients and doctors thousands of miles away through telecommunications and it is not uncommon in today’s world for patients to hold video conferences with physicians to save time and money.

As per Statista, the total global medical technology growth per year is expected to be at 5% in the 2022 and although the medical tech industry had unstable growth in the recent years, the healthcare industry persists as strong with different products and companies involved. 

Technological development has transformed medicine through its innovative and challenging solutions. 

Source: aimseducation.edu

Electronic Medical Records (EMR/EHR)

In the last few decades, medical recording and billing advanced from a paper-based system to a digital format. 

A new software was developed as per HIPAA laws to send out electronic bills and soon the electronic medical records took place. 

Doctors hugely benefit from these digital records – with a tap of the button, they can access all the care a patient has ever received and figure out possible illnesses. Doctor offices and hospitals can easily access the patient’s records by any connected device. 

Another benefit is enablement of statistical documentation of the entire population as well as supporting the transparency of the healthcare system and possibility to integrate it with reimbursement data. 

As the healthcare system changes, these types of electronic records minimize errors. 

Although it is not a perfect system (sometimes difficult to access and don’t provide network-wide connectivity due to security issues etc.) it can allow doctors to access patient’s records without having to get copies or to rely on outdated fax machines. 

In a nutshell, EMR enables medical staff to access patients’ records easily and provide more personalized treatment as per the medical history.

Source: physicianexpress.com

3D printing

Although 3D printing started back in the 1980s by Charles Hull, its wide usage started later. 

Its ‘adolescence’ stage from 1999 to 2010 was a great decade for 3D printing not only due to its popularization but when 3D printing met an open-source movement. The open-source initiative for a self-sustainable 3D printer that could build itself or some of its parts started in 2005 by Dr Adrian Bowyer in a RepRap Project.

The ability to print anything quickly became something to improve the medical industry. MRI and CT scan images can be converted into 3D image files and printed, allowing surgeons to explore the area prior to any surgery taking place. 

3D printing can bring wonders in all aspects of healthcare. We can now print biotissues, artificial limbs, pills, blood vessels and much more. 

The pharmaceutical industry also witnessed benefits – FDA approved the first 3D printed drug back in 2015 and nowadays scientists are working on 3D-printing ‘polypills’

3D printing has revolutionized prosthetics as well – getting a customized prosthetic limb is significantly cheaper and affordable to more people as massive developments have been made within the 3D printing industry.

NGOs also helps patients and refugees from war-torn-areas with 3D printing technology providing them with printed prosthetics. 

Source: machinedesign.com

ICD-10 

ICD-10 or International Statistical Classification of Diseases is the most recent revision of the diagnostic tool. 

The classification allows illnesses, unusual findings and symptoms to be recorded and it covers more than 14000 different codes as well as additional sub-classification. This tool is able to trace diagnoses and allows a country to track its morbidity rate as well as to retrieve and store diagnostic information. 

If a clinic or a hospital wants to start using ICD-10, they usually need to install the new software. 

Afterwards, the staff members must be educated on how to follow set guidelines. There are many online training programs and many association websites offer instructions.  

The new technology streamlines the system and enables tracking of the population statistics which can help with future diagnoses. New billing methods and tracking procedures make it easier to identify patients’ past treatments. 

ICD technology reduces the amount of paperwork, increases the rate of successful treatments and allows practitioners to monitor the entire population when treating an epidemic. 

Source: ehrintelligence.com

Big Data

In every industry, DATA is everything – in healthcare, the analysis of a huge amount of data can provide valuable insights into the state of the industry. 

Some examples are that doctors can now offer more accurate diagnoses and suggest better treatment. 

Data ranges from analyzing diagnostic reports to filing patient treatment histories. IBM research teams say that the same supercomputer that won a game of Jeopardy in 2011 is now used to help physicians make more accurate diagnoses and recommend the treatment accordingly.

Today, it is possible to generate and collect huge amounts of data from a number of different sources in healthcare – this data is used for analytics, making predictions about potential epidemics and preventing fatal results.  

Cloud storage of data helps to improve efficiency and accessibility to the information as well as in R&D of new treatment protocols or pharmaceutical formulations since they provide vast amounts of analysis facilitating efficient health information exchange. 

With cloud services and big data, there is no more hassle or high costs of maintaining additional server hardware – it is a secure and cost-effective storage solution. 

Source: tcf.org

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence can redesign healthcare entirely – a computer can be programmed to analyze the data and come to conclusions much faster than a human can. 

AI algorithms are able to extract medical records, outline treatment plans or develop drugs quicker than any medical professional. 

One of the examples is Google’s DeepMind which created an AI for breast cancer analysis – it proved to outperform all human radiologists on average by 11.5%!

Another benefit of AI is personalized medicine and more effective treatment based on individual health data paired with predictive analytics – it is currently ruled by supervised learning allowing doctors to select from more limited sets of diagnoses or estimate patient risk based on genetic info and more. 

Pharmaceutical industry also reaps benefits from AI – experimentation data can help drug manufacturers to reduce the time needed for developing drugs resulting in lower costs and improved replication. 

Companies like Turbine, and Deep Genomics are leveraging the power of A.I. to develop new drug candidates and novel therapeutic solutions in record time and speed up the time bringing it to market, all while saving costs and lives.

There are many more applications of AI in medicine for clinical trials or radiology and it is still being tested and implemented. 

Source: medtechimpact.com

Robotics and drones

Robotics is the fastest growing field in medicine – surgical robots, pharmabotics, disinfectant robots etc. are just some of the developments that robotics covers. 

The global shortage of health professionals during the recent outbreak is something that could eventually be facilitated in the future by robots providing assistance to people that need help where human capacities lack. 

Lately, with a sudden outbreak of Coronavirus, robots have become more than necessary – they’ve become mandatory for decreasing the infection spreading. 

Due to COVID-19 being highly infectious, minimizing human to human contact has become a pivotal issue.

The challenge was to get more robots in medicine to perform activities like delivery service etc. and the company JD have accepted the challenge – its autonomous robots helped in minimizing human-to-human contact while providing basic goods to people. 

Source: cncf.io

Another great usage of robots in medicine is having robots disinfectants which can clean and sterilize the patients’ rooms without exposing anyone to infection.

A great example is a Danish company UVD – they constructed the robots which emit ultraviolet light to kill bacteria without exposing humans to infection and the best is that they can be controlled remotely. These UVD robots have been a great help during the Covid epidemic

Drones are another way of helping healthcare – they can broadcast information, spray disinfectants in public places or deliver smaller items. Lately, some drones have been equipped with thermal imaging and resulted in identification of people of elevated body temperature or not wearing masks but also for many other usages. 

Source: nurse.org

Robot companions have also taken their place in medicine – they help people to alleviate loneliness, treat mental issues or help people or children with chronic diseases.

Existing examples of robot companions include Jibo, Paro or Buddy – some of them have touch sensors, cameras and microphones for their owners to be able to interact with them. 

In outbreak or not, the robots and drones can become an increasingly essential support for humans in many ways. 

Virtual (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)

Virtual reality is changing healthcare and both the lives of patients and doctors – it is being used to train future surgeons for actual surgeries which showed that surgeons had 230% of boost in their overall performance due to such a tech assistant as opposed to their traditionally-trained peers. 

The technology is also benefiting patients within pain management – patients suffering from cardiac, neurological or post-surgical pain have shown a significant decline in their pain levels when using VR to distract them from painful stimuli. 

On the other side, we have Augmented Reality AR which is different from VR as users do not lose touch with reality and it only puts information into the eyesight quickly. 

In medicine, AR can help medical students to prepare better for real-life operations in the same way as it prepares surgeons to enhance their capabilities. 

For example, medical students can use Microsoft HoloLens to study anatomy via their app. By using this method, they can learn a detailed and accurate anatomy of humans without the need of real bodies. 

Source: mellanox.com

Wearables and sensors

The biggest benefit in healthcare definitely comes from wearable technology. 

Wearables have already found their path to gaining popularity nowadays – those are great devices to get to know more about ourselves and retake control of our own lives. 

Source: wearableo.com

There are many types of wearables e.g to manage your weight or stress level, to manage your cognitive capabilities better or just to reach an overall fit state.

The tracking industry has infiltrated into the lives of all of us, old or young, with smart bracelets, smart beds and smart chest straps, smart rings, fitness trackers, smartwatches, smart hearing aids etc.  

With healthcare, patients who wear these smart devices can measure data ranging from body temperature to blood pressure which can further be sent to their medical team in real-time. 

In case anything looks odd or even dangerous, doctors can diagnose and treat the patient much quicker.

The entire process is quick thanks to the data collected by a wearable device as doctors do not have to run a myriad of tests to determine an illness or disease. Instead, they can refer to the data collected by a wearable to quickly figure out the cause of the medical problem. 

Source: fronetiersin.org

Wearables also enable remote monitoring where a person can stay at home and share the results remotely with their physicians leading to people having more control of their own health and making more informed decisions. 

Remote monitoring is especially beneficial for disabled people who cannot move and visit their doctors or hospitals – remote technology allows them to consult the doctor from the comfort of their homes.

This way of communication reduces the time and financial cost of recurring visits to the doctor.  

MHealth

Mobile health apps or MHealth offer a huge flexibility to all participants – the apps are one of the most inexpensive ways to facilitate communication and to provide services to the patients. 

There are different apps according to their primary functions – some serve to raise health awareness while others facilitate patient-doctor communication. 

Today, there is ‘an app for everything’ as Apple says and that is genuinely true – besides the apps which can help to track your sleep patterns or monitor your heart rate there are also social media apps for doctors to interact and link with patients. 

Mhealth supports multiple areas in healthcare such as medication management, personal health records, diagnostics, fitness and weight loss, mental health and many more. 

Due to technological innovations, it is possible to explore and research other ways of treatments today. 

Healthcare industry is heading towards improved effectiveness every day.

Source: kingsfund.co.uk

Medical Research and Technology 

Technology has disrupted the way how medical research and experiments are conducted – the same procedures now take months instead of years or longer. 

Today, it is possible to simulate human reactions to a particular drug rather than lean solely on human volunteers. 

Scientists were able to examine various diseases on a cellular level and produce antibodies against those with the help of technology. Such vaccines against serious or fatal diseases (polio, MMR etc.) help to prevent disease spread and save thousands of lives. 

For example, when the Ebola outbreak happened, researchers developed innovative solutions that led to the Ebola vaccine in record time – this proves that experiments and research can be greatly accelerated with the help of technology.  

The researches and tests are still being conducted with help of technology to support prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases as well as development of new medicines and drugs.

Source: techround.co.uk

Nanotechnology 

Nanotechnology is an exciting new area in science with endless applications in medicine. Nanomedicine seeks to apply nanotechnology – manipulation and manufacture of materials and devices smaller than 1 nanometre (0.0000001 cm) in size – to prevent diseases and to diagnose, monitor, treat, repair and regenerate the biological systems. 

Some applications of nanotechnology in medicine can be within cancer therapy, protein detection, tissue engineering, cell manipulation, heart diseases, antibacterial treatment and more. 

For example, small smart pills like PillCam are already in use for colon exams in a non-invasive way. The first approved smart pill was back in 2001 and in 2018 MIT researchers created an electronic pill that can be controlled wirelessly and can help sending diagnostic information or release medicine per smartphone commands. 

Besides smart pills, there are also vibrant capsules, dose tracking pills, nanobots, nanopatch vaccines, smartphone microscopes, smart bandages and more but we are still to see the future of nanotechnology in medicine

Smart patches are also a form of nanotech and this year, France-based company Grapheal developed a smart patch for continuous monitoring of wounds – the patch measures and stores bio parameters which graphene core can even stimulate wound healing.

CES 2020 has revealed many novelties related to nanomedicine and as technology evolves, we are yet to see more practical examples of nanotech in medicine. 

Source: youtube.com

FINAL

These examples of technologies show how new ideas can completely change the experience for patients and the treatment process for the care providers. These technologies offer amazing opportunities to provide better healthcare to people as well as supporting healthcare to cope better with the increasing demands. 

As technology continues to develop, we will see even more innovation and development within healthcare. 

How can Technology and AI help fight Coronavirus better?

The spread of coronavirus shows no sign of ending soon. 

Many countries have been affected by the virus but at the moment, there is no vaccine to treat it. As Coronavirus continues to spread, the most important task is to contain the outbreak as much as possible. 

Amidst the global pandemic, technology can be used to help and save lives.

How can technology and AI (artificial intelligence) help people in the fight against COVID19?

AI to Track Coronavirus Outbreaks

AI (Artificial Intelligence) can help us to track Coronavirus outbreaks. 
Today, we can track data via the live dashboard – it pulls data from the World Health Organization (WHO) to better locate possible outbreaks and provide safety measures to minimize the spread.

Source: John Hopkins University

A Canadian health monitoring company BlueDot uses AI to scrap foreign news reports, forums and announcements from public health officials to protect people around the world from infectious diseases. BlueDot’s early-warn system uses AI (ML or Machine Learning and NLP or Natural Language Processing) to track and analyze data which helps them to understand when to notify about the spread

Speed matters the most in a pandemic situation and AI can spot the outbreaks quickly and intervene to keep them to a minimum. AI surveillance uses tons of posts about Coronavirus to get more accurate data and predict how fast the outbreaks may be. 

More and more countries have started deploying AI surveillance to monitor and track citizens to achieve a wide range of purposes. Although it raises serious questions about the future of privacy, AI surveillance has proven a useful tool to monitor and respond to the global outbreak such as Coronavirus. 

AI and Wearables to Track People 

Some countries, like China, use AI and ML based tools to detect Coronavirus cases – not only detect but also to track people that have been put to quarantine or self-isolation. 

Face recognition can help with detecting people’s faces, especially with people who have been diagnosed with the virus and if, in any case, cannot be located. 

Many applications have also been developed to help people track if they’ve been in places as the confirmed virus patients. 

Source: austincountynewsonlne.com

Wearable technology is another great way that may help to fight the virus – it enables healthcare professionals to monitor vital signs with patients without physical contact. 

Some hospitals in China have used a continuous temperature sensor to help reduce the spread of the virus – the sensor is applied to the patient and sends real-time information to the health institution. 

Wearables have proven beneficial and can be used to monitor heart and respiratory rates among patients.  

Source:rateittoday.com

Drones Assistance

Drones’ assistance have become essential in minimizing the spread – people use drones to carry out tasks like spraying disinfectant, dispersing public gatherings or tracking people in quarantine.

Usually lighter drones are used for detection and monitoring while some types of drones can also be used for food and face masks delivery which helps prevent the virus spread.  

Souce: wetalkuav.com

Drones can be upgraded for Aerial Thermography – usage of drones equipped with thermal camera scanners to detect temperatures of people in a crowd where they can identify persons with the highest body temperature.

Source: thedronegirl.com

Robots and Tech Tools for Contactless Communication

Robots have become more important than ever during the pandemic outbreak as it’s extremely difficult for medical staff to remain safe while providing treatment to patients. 

Shortage of medical workers has become a top problem as they are in direct contact with the patients and can get infected by the virus. 

Using robots can minimize the exposure of medical staff to the infected patients – the fewer people in contact with infected patients, the better. 

Robots can help perform tasks such as delivering food and medicines and cleaning the patients’ rooms enabling contactless assistance and preventing further spread. 

Source: news.panasonic.com

Healthcare applications can provide real-time consultations – patients that suffer from symptoms similar to Coronavirus can consult a doctor via a video call instead of coming into close contact with patients. 

Virtual consultations can provide doctors with a person’s current state along with healthcare data like blood pressure, heart rate, etc. 

Source: smarthealth.nl

In China, Ecommerce giants have gone further and deployed robots to deliver food to prevent the spread of the virus. Contactless delivery systems try to minimize the human contact resulting in decreased spread of the virus itself. Autonomous vehicles can carry up to 100kg of goods and deliver 3-4 rounds per trip. 

Self-driving robots can be used for disinfection of hospitals, for example, UVD robots release concentrated UV-C light which has a germicidal effect and can kill bacteria and airborne viruses on the surface. 

One of the most popular robotic ‘disinfectants’ is developed by Blue Ocean Robotics that uses ultraviolet light to kill viruses and germs. 

Source: blue-ocean-robotics.com

Thermal Imaging Cameras to Detect Temperature

Although Coronavirus is a current danger, people still need to work and travel if necessary. 

Many thermal screening cameras have been installed at airports across many countries – they use thermal imaging equipment to detect a person’s body temperature if above normal range and react accordingly without spreading panic.

Thermal cameras create images using infrared radiation – the heat sensors record the heat of people’s bodies and display 2D images with temperature levels.

Thermal sensors can scan the large crowd of people and instantly pinpoint the ones with high temperatures or fever as opposed to checking everyone’s temperature and creating massive delays. 

Source: gizmodo.com

As already mentioned, another great usage of thermal cameras is called Aerial Thermography which includes an unmanned aerial device (drone) and an infrared camera scanning. 

Drones show higher safety levels as they can complete the task with less or no contact and they can be obtained at affordable costs.

Such data can be sent to health institutions so that the treatments can start immediately and have the biggest effect. 

AI to Help Develop Medicine

Coronavirus is similar to EBola and SARS as they’re RNA viruses which means they are responsive to mutation and more complex to develop vaccines.

Source: blockbox.io

Many companies have already deployed their resources in attempts to develop medicines – Google’s DeepMind has used its AlphaFold system to release structure predictions associated with the virus. Although these haven’t been experimentally proven, they hope it will lead to better understanding how the virus functions

Baidu Research has opened its LinearFold algorithm for free to the scientific community and epidemic prevention centres so that all research on Covid19 structure can be continuously expedited – the algorithm takes only 27 seconds to recognize and solve the RNA structure of Covid19 which is over 100 times faster than classic algorithms. 

The most important thing for these algorithms is access to data so it’s vital to release all details crucial for any algorithm searching for a cure. 

Tech Tools Provide Online Education Programs

Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, many schools and universities are closed while schooling is organized via online education programs.

Simple technology tools and apps enable many educational institutions to organize pre-recorded classes or live streaming where teachers can hold their classes with help of a whiteboard or PowerPoint presentation thus continuing the school year. 

In Serbia, school and university programs have been adopted via national TV channels or digital channels so that it is accessible to everyone.

Source: politika.rs

A great number of online teaching and educational platforms also provide their services for free during the outbreak helping students not to be so much affected by Coronavirus.

The crisis evoked by Coronavirus triggered an increased demand for online education, courses and content. 

AI to Fight Fake Information

Global pandemic affected the world population and it’s been noticed that some social media networks started posting misleading content related to Coronavirus and its prevention – from the origin of the virus to various claims about miracle cures. 

Spreading panic in a pandemic situation is extremely dangerous and an increased number of fake news can just make the situation worse. 

Source: blo88er.com

AI can be used to analyze words or word patterns to try to spotlight fake stories. 

For example, Facebook uses AI to address the issue by quickly learning behaviour through pattern recognition – power of AI can detect false stories on the Internet with great accuracy. 

That is the reason why the biggest internet and social media companies put extra effort to detect fake information and filter information that can be sent over their networks. 

AI to Help Production of Face Masks

As the Coronavirus outbreak rapidly spread in some countries, lack of medical equipment has become a common issue within many health institutions worldwide. 

Lack of masks, gloves, protective scrubs etc. is a huge problem and we need to address it if we intend to keep our medical workers healthy and minimize the spread of virus with those who are the first in the frontline. 

Source: sonoviatech.com

One of the companies that contribute to the issue of shortage of medical products is Sonovia, an Israeli startup that works on producing fabrics that will be immune to the virus until we develop vaccines. The most important thing is that they use technology that can cover fabrics with antivirus without using any chemicals. 

In Serbia, a Facebook group ‘Vizionari Srbije’ was established on 20 March 2020 by a group of enthusiasts with a goal to help their citizens at risk of getting infected by Coronavirus. The first project was to create 3D printed safety face visors to protect healthcare professionals and medical staff from direct transmission of the virus. The project achieved a huge response – the group created visors for more than 22.000 people and still counting. 

Source: https://www.facebook.com/groups/vizionarisrbije

Final Word

As the Coronavirus crisis is growing, we can see how some of the technologies can be helpful in the fight against infectious diseases in the future. 

Technology can be our ally and help save lives, but let us not forget that humanity and solidarity among people enable the same technology to show its full potential and keep us together during the outbreak. 

I believe technology still needs time before being able to stop such disease outbreaks so we need to invest in it proactively. The human experts and technology are the best combination for the future times.