Government Medical College, Patiala
I believe medicine will grow more in the next 10 years than it has in the past, owing to the fact that the current medical professionals have grown up in an era of globalisation and technology, through constant use of platforms like Fb, insta , twitter, youtube, reddit, online blogs etc. So next few years would be all about sharing ideas and aiming to improve health culture, by communicating issues affecting patients and bringing up solutions. It will all be about gaining knowledge to harness social media and technology for improving healthcare in general.
What exactly is an innovation and why do we need it?And how is it different from invention?
In any kind of sector, innovation is a core activity. It generally refers to changing the existing processes or creating more effective processes, ideas and products. Not keeping a rigid outlook, it does not only mean invention of a new process, rather translating that invention or idea into something that addsvalue for the existing system.
So what does innovation in the healthcare sector mean?
It means hoping to see some significant changes in how healthcare is administered, improvements in patient access, lower wait times, improved revenues for health systems, lower costs and much more. It means opening up alternatives to a tedious early procedure or creating asolution to a medical problem previously incurable. And glad to say, the healthcare sector has stepped onto the technological bandwagonand made tremendous progress bringing forth new innovations from patient registration to data monitoring, lab tests and self-care tools. It has taken out services from the confines of hospital walls and integrated them with user friendly accessible devices, changing the face of modern medicine.
With this, let us look at some latest innovations in the healthcare sector that have reformed the way we look at medicine.
- ROBOTIC SURGERY
Robots in the OT, you say? Sounds surreal right? But the crossover of industrial robotics with medicine dates back to the 1980s when Kwoh et al employed PUMA 560 to perform neurosurgical biopsies with greater precision. The major breakthrough occurred with the production of Da Vinci Surgery System in 2000 which became the first FDA-approved system for general laparoscopic surgery. Today, integration with robotics has resulted in most surgeries being performed with minimally invasive approach leading to a shortened recovery time, reduced pain and overall better surgical outcome for the patients.
- ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Although still in its infancy, AI holds promise for patients changing the healthcare game with its applications in patient triage, minimizing staffing challenges, monitoring the health status or scheduling doctor appointments based on severity of symptoms. It also includes apps that act as chat bots for discussing private medical issues with, which then provides ‘smart help’ to a patient in getting doctor consultations.
Nota completely new development, yet it has grown tremendously in the last decade providing cost-benefits that can’t be ignored. It is expanding on the thought process that “if the right clinical expertise can be brought to the right place at the right time to make the right medical decision in an effective manner”, the quality can be improved and costs lowered.
- RNA BASED THERAPIES
Interfering with genetic data at the ribonucleic acid (RNA) level gives scientists the ability to intercept a patient’s genetic abnormality before it is translated into functioning proteins. One sector where this has been successful is in the development of a class of new LDL cholesterol-lowering drugs which when taken with a statin, are expected to lower cholesterol levels by 75%
Most of us would think of video games at the mention of VR, isn’t it? However these reality systems have recently caught the eye of healthcare professionals eager to sharpen their skills. It has also proved efficient to treat chronic pain. KarunaVR for instance uses VR tech to help patients overcome learned pain and motor impairment.
- 3D PRINTING
Using 3D printing technology, medical devices can now be matched to the exact specifications of a patient. Currently, its applications include in the area of external prosthetics, cranial/orthopaedic implants and customized airway stents. With greater advancement, it is increasing attention to detail in patient care.
- PHARMACOGENOMIC TESTING
In the recent years, the opioid crisis has been declared a public health emergency due to an increase in its prescription for chronic pain. To curtail this crisis, pharmacogenomics testing came to the rescue, which uses a patient’s genetic makeup to predict an individual’s metabolism of drugs, including some opiate based drug. It has also helped in eliminating the stigma of ‘drug seeking’ as it can predict who may have little or no pain relief to some opioid based analgesics. This way, these people cannot get over prescriptions.
- HEALTH WEARABLES
The demand for wearables has grown since the release of Bluetooth back in 2000. In late 2018, Apple made headlines with their ground breaking Apple Series 4 Watch that has an integrated ECG to monitor the wearer’s heart rhythms. Within days of its technology, it became one of the hottest innovations of today, aiming to combat chronic diseases like diabetes by helping patients monitoring their fitness.
- SMART INHALERS
Research studies had shown that 94% people don’t use inhalers properly and hence don’t have their asthma under control. To control this, Bluetooth enabled smart inhalers were developed in which a small device is attached to the inhaler which records the date and time of each dose and whether it was correctly administered. The date is then sent to patient’s smartphone so they can keep track of and control their condition.
As the years pass, the healthcare sector will continue to flourish. If you don’t like visiting the doctor, that’s fine, because soon the doctor may visit you. Virtually that is possible with 5Gwireless communication technology which is in talks lately. Also, Apple is reportedly working on a “super secret” medical project aiming at non-invasive diabetic monitoring. Exciting, right? Let us wait and watch what the future holds for us.