Technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Machine Learning, Telemedicine, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and the Internet of Things play a vital role in shaping the future of Health Tech. The goal is to make it easy for humans to take care of themselves and their overall health.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the ways AI, Telemedicine, AR, VR, IoT, and 3D technologies are improving healthcare and have become the driving forces of some medical technologies.
One of the top technologies causing a radical change in health tech is Artificial Intelligence. AI is the backbone of all modern emerging technologies. For the healthcare industry, AI-enabled solutions can assist medical research and help with new product development.
With Machine Learning, the most common form of AI, it has become possible for researchers now to reach conclusions easily and with better precision. Big Data, which goes hand in hand with ML, is used to analyze enormous amounts of patient data and detect the patterns of diseases. It includes diagnosing diseases to discovering links between genetic codes and robots assisting surgeries. Altogether, it can lead to better outcomes and patient engagement with immediate returns through cost reduction.
A deep neural network, called the LSAN, is developed by researchers at Penn State University. The new ML model would predict any future health conditions of a patient by scanning and analyzing the electronic health records of the patients.
Image: Fraunhofer FOKUS
The integration of AI technology in cancer care is one area that can make a breakthrough impact on humanity. Cancer screening today is inconvenient and invasive. The detection of two common cancers, colon and breast, require screening technologies developed 50 years ago.
Cancer patients have a 90% chance of survival if cancer is detected at stage I versus only a 5% chance at stage IV, so early detection is a critical means of improving patient outcomes.
Helio Health is an AI-driven healthcare startup focused on developing and commercializing early cancer detection tests from a simple blood draw. The company's mission is to simplify cancer screening so lives can be saved by detecting cancer earlier. Helio Health has secured $86 million in venture funding and currently in clinical trials for its lead liver cancer detection test, the HelioLiver Test. Helio's development program is currently focused on liver, colon, breast, and lung cancer, and actively collaborating with top national cancer centers.
Telemedicine technologies have been making a huge impact. Telemedicine boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic and I believe the trend is going to stay. There are plenty of reasons for that, but the real reason is as more and more gadgets, gears, and wearable devices - like Ring, FitBit, or Embr Wave - are becoming part of health tech. Apple announced a breakthrough ECG app - approved by the FDA - empowering patients to maintain a log of their electrocardiogram anytime.
Our smartphones can now also pair with third-party health devices like glucometers, heart monitors, body scales, toothbrushes, and spirometers for other important and vital metrics.
Wearable and mobile devices are becoming popular as they are providing more accurate results than before. One of the leading causes of death worldwide is hypertension. But your smartphone can measure your blood pressure as well. Biospectal OptiBP, backed by grants from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is a smartphone app that measures your blood pressure anytime. The app is very accurate, and aided by telemedicine, can really make a difference to fight the global hypertension crisis even in low-income countries.
Health tech devices can even transmit data automatically from such devices to telemedicine service providers. This growing number of health devices and their convenience is not only just helping researchers with day-to-day data but also opening a new era of at-home telehealth.
Another example of telemedicine is Stanton Optical, a leading eye health provider. During the pandemic, they started to offer all eye care as part of their telemedicine initiative. The optical company offered patients to receive a customized eye care treatment plan and prescription through a virtual video screen with a local Ophthalmologist (MD) or Optometrist. It allowed patients to receive eye care during a pandemic when many eye care providers are turning away patients within the safety of their homes.
Many other startups like DoctorSpring and Second Opinions are providing telemedicine services. DoctorSpring allows you to do a medical consultancy from board-certified doctors 24x7. Second Opinions also let you submit a medical questionnaire before scheduling an online meeting with a board-certified doctor.
Health tech is making it possible for the healthcare industry to manage major diseases like diagnosing and treating cancer, diabetes, hypertension and helping patients suffering from mental health issues.
Elon Musk's neural technology company, Neuralink, is working on a brain chip that will be implanted into the human skull and connected directly to the brain. The goal of the Neuralink chip is to provide an interface to communicate with the brain. It can help to improve mental health and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, and spinal cord injuries. It would initially focus on curing and treating major traumas and brain injuries, and can also be used to restore eyesight and hearing. The chip electrodes can read signals from the brain and write them down and will be helpful in curing paralysis as well.
Screengrab: Neuralink YouTube
The brain chip designed by Neuralink is still in the phases of trials. It was first implanted in the brain of a pig for initial trials. The chip was recently implanted in a monkey, and a video showed it playing a video game by using its brain only. Elon Musk claimed in a tweet that his company and the chip will be ready for human trials later this year. However, he made a similar claim in 2019 that the chip would be tested on humans by the end of 2020.
Facebook made a formal entry into the neural world when it acquired CTRL Labs, a startup co-founded by Internet Explorer creator and neuroscientist Thomas Reardon, in 2019. CTRL Labs is working on a similar brain-machine interface, but unlike brain implanted chips by Neuralink, CTRL Labs' mainstream product is their wristband which they demonstrated to transmit electrical signals from the brain into computer input.
CTRL Labs wristband is part of Facebook's AR/VR research group. Facebook plans to use the neural interface technology of CTRL Lab's wristband that connects to their AR/VR devices more naturally and intuitively. Neural technology development is a clear indication that we will see a breakthrough in health tech very soon.
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have proved to be significant and useful visual technologies. They have already advanced so much in the healthcare sector that medical practitioners can now render 3D images of human autonomy and their CT scans for better examination and to precisely locate the blood vessels, bones, and muscles.
Osso VR, a startup based in Palo Alto, has raised $14 million in September to build a virtual reality surgical training and assessment platform. This can help surgeons in training to repeat steps many times virtually. Orthopedic residency programs using Osso VR include Columbia University, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Harvard Medical School, and more.
Image: Osso VR
Organovo has already printed human liver cells and tissues in 3D. Their ExVive3D Liver Tissue is helping the pharmaceutical and the healthcare industry in testing the conditions of the human liver.
The technology is advancing quickly enough that we could soon see surgeons and medical staff frequently use VR or AR glasses during critical surgeries, and it was found that the individuals who take help from this health tech perform surgeries quicker and with better precision. Surgeries are quicker and more precise now with the help of AR and VR.
Healthcare has always been of immense importance to human beings. Health tech is constantly improving the healthcare sector, and the ways of providing basic healthcare to humans have become easier and more effective.
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