Pocket-size ultrasound devices that are 100 times cheaper compared to machines in hospitals. Virtual reality that declines pain level after surgery. Artificial intelligence applications that can detect cancer at its earliest stages. These are just some of the innovations that are currently transforming the healthcare industry.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Artificial Intelligence is rewiring the traditional concept of healthcare delivery at hyper-speed. According to Accenture, the growth of AI implementation is already accelerating, by 2021 it has been estimated to reach $6.6 billion which is a compound annual growth rate of 40% compared to $600 million in 2014.
In the healthcare industry, Artificial Intelligence represents an umbrella term that unites a range of technologies, enabling machines to sense, comprehend, act and learn. Presenting opportunities across a variety of therapy areas, diagnostics, wearables, and virtual assistants, AI helps healthcare organizations to meet the increasing demand for interoperability and digital expectations from customers.
One of the most forms of Artificial intelligence, machine learning, enables decision-making by processing and finding patterns in big data sets. It consists of algorithms that are used to learn from data independently without human intervention.
- Diagnostics and medical imaging
In 2015, medical error and misdiagnosing accounted for 10% of all US deaths. Over the past couple of years, AI has substantially expanded in the fields of diagnostics and medical imaging, enabling medical researchers and doctors to deliver flawless clinical practice. Speeding up standardization and quantification, deep learning not only helps to prevent errors and improve test outcomes, it also improves the assessment in medical imaging to detect malignancy and Diabetic Retinopathy (DR).
Enlitic, the 5th smartest AI company in the world, develops deep learning medical tools to streamline radiology diagnosis. Through analyzing unstructured medical data such as radiology images, EKGs, blood tests, etc, the platform gives doctors better insights into a patient’s current state.
- Diseases prediction
The healthcare industry operates vast volumes of patient records. Using machine learning tools to store and analyze this data, healthcare providers can address a large number of diseases before their occurrence. Currently, data mining is used for the development of early detection systems.
Freenome leverages AI in screening, blood work, and diagnostic tests to examine for cancer. This allows it to detect cancer in its earliest stages and afterward develop new treatments.
- Surgery and emergency room
Da Vinci Surgery System, developed 15 years ago, was the first surgical robot approved by the FDA for general laparoscopic surgery. Since then, a big number of AI and ML-powered surgical robots have been introduced. Cognitive robotics is able to integrate pre-operation medical records with real-time operating metrics to guide and improve doctor’s instrument precision.
With advanced medical cognitive and NLP capabilities, IBM Watson is able to respond to surgeon’s queries. Such AI-powered platforms can monitor blood in real-time, provide navigating support in arthroscopy and open surgery, and detect physical responses to pain.
In the period of time from 2009 to 2017, more than 176 million patient records were exposed in data breaches, including medical records, credit card, and banking information. Such disappointing statistics make security the most vulnerable point of healthcare digitization. The usage of blockchain technology helps mitigate such risks by securely encrypting and transferring patient data, managing the medicine supply chain, and even outbreak of harmful diseases. One of the countries with the biggest blockchain potential is Estonia. The country has been using blockchain since 2012 to secure medical information and process transactions. Today, 95% of Estonian healthcare data and 99% of prescription information is digital while all of the country’s healthcare billing is handled on the blockchain. Some other blockchain applications in healthcare include:
- Supply chain transparency
By leveraging blockchain, healthcare providers can develop a single system to store, continuously update health records, and ensure secure and fast retrieval by authorized users. The existence of such a unified system helps to avoid mistakes and miscommunication, ensure faster and more accurate diagnosis, and provide each patient with more personalized care.
- Smart contracts for supply chain and insurance settlements
Blockchain-based systems are used by healthcare providers, insurers, pharmaceutical companies, and wholesalers to authenticate their identities as organizations, track transactions and payments, and log contract details. Fully digital and automated environments help drastically cut down disputes over payment chargeback claims for prescription medications and other goods.
Chronicled states that as a result of a change of pricing structures, there are over one million chargeback claims made between actors annually, more than 5% of which are disputed, requiring lengthy manual resolution.
- Patient-centric EHRs
According to 2016 Johns Hopkins University research, the third leading cause of death in the US was medical errors as a result of poorly coordinated care. Errors and omissions in patient records have become a problem that healthcare systems in many countries are struggling with. A blockchain-based system for medical records, linked to existing EMR software can easily solve this problem.
Medicalchain is a great example of a company that helps healthcare providers implement blockchain-enabled EMRs.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
By implementing VR & AR technologies, many healthcare companies have managed to establish connections with their patients in terms of the pandemic, providing remote and personalized care. Passed have the times when the technologies were exclusively devoted to the gaming industry. In 2021 and beyond, VR & AR will be actively used for medical training, physical therapy, post-traumatic stress treatment, and some other purposes:
- Medical Immersion for a variety of patient needs
Healthcare providers actively leverage VR & AR technologies to enhance their patients’ experiences by engaging them in healthcare activities. A good example is the implementation of VR apps for planning the sequence of procedures and viewing the results in aesthetic medicine and orthodontia. These solutions can be also used for improved self-diagnostics and self-guided treatment in remote areas where people mainly use telemedicine. Another implementation of AR is maps assisting which users can define the nearest clinics in unknown areas, which is especially useful in case of emergency.
- Preparation for surgery
Surgeons can use VR & AR solutions before performing an operation to walk through the organs or view 3D models of challenging surgical cases. What is more, such 3D organ models can serve illustrative purposes in the learning process or explain to patients the whole surgery process. According to a Harvard Business Review study, surgeons that trained with VR solutions had a 230% boost in their performance in comparison to their traditionally trained colleagues.
- Pain treatment
The technology has also been proven to be effective in reducing pain. The research shows that patients who suffered from post-surgical, cardiac, or gastrointestinal pain, have shown a decline in pain levels while using VR to distract them from painful stimuli. Also, women in labor who were equipped with VR headsets to visualize soothing landscapes managed to more easily get through labor pain.
No one can predict the future but it can be at least glimpsed in the list of the aforementioned innovations. Some of them have already entered the industry and some are yet to come. Though there are things without which healthcare providers can’t competitively exist anymore such as telemedicine solutions, EHRs/EMRs, and hospital management software. If you are among those who need to develop one or update — we are ready to help.