We hear the term digital transformation everywhere these days it seems. Its meaning has extended far beyond a term used to describe a shift in processes, to become a new way of thinking and conceiving fresh possibilities.
Nowhere is this better explored than in the arena of Healthcare, where patient empowerment has shattered the autocratic walls of yesteryear and ever evolving technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) have allowed physicians to discover more than ever about the workings of the human body.
Healthcare sliced and diced
The application of evolving and emerging technology in healthcare can be sliced and diced in a multitude of ways to provide a diverse range of medical, pharma and lifestyle solutions. One such route is that of data analysis, where treatment recommendations can be produced through human generated algorithms that are not generally reliant upon independent computer intelligence. It’s a matter of speed here as the volumes of data collected can be swiftly categorised and made sense of, saving huge numbers of man hours and quickly identifying patterns which can be used to provide treatment recommendations and detect colorations in condition response.
In contrast to this, advanced machine learning applications are evolving that rely on AI neural networks modelled on the human brain. These allow computers to simulate, and even improve upon, the way the human mind processes information. The simulations take pattern recognition to the next level to identify those patients at risk of developing a condition. They then explore environmental, genomic and other factors to produce new waves of data that can drive forward medical breakthroughs and potentially transform the future of preventative care.
Just Google It!
Google understand the value and potential of this form of innovation in healthcare and, in 2014, they acquired DeepMind Health, an AI, neuroscience based research arm of the technology giant, dedicated to working on some of the world’s most complex and interesting medical research challenges. One of their latest projects involves using a meta-reinforcement AI framework to discover how dopamine might assist the brain in learning.
The results show that dopamine does indeed make a significant and profound contribution to the brains ability to learn new things, particularly within the pre-frontal cortex area, something that was previously unknown. Google feel that their work will continue to dig deep into new areas of medical innovation that can drive forward the future of healthcare and it’s exciting to see other global corporations such as Siemens Healthineers programme and Microsoft’s Healthcare NExT initiative following their lead.
Healthcare in the Cloud
Despite much fear-mongering “the shift to the healthcare Cloud is inevitable and rapidly taking shape” says research firm Markets and Markets. Their findings show the global healthcare cloud computing market is forecast to reach $9.48 billion by 2020, up from just $3.73 billion in 2015.
A clear reason for this lies in the fact that cloud-based technology dramatically reduces infrastructure and maintenance costs, whilst providing access to data from virtually any connected computer, tablet, phone or other device. This shift, in turn, empowers patients themselves to submit healthcare data to their practitioners and likewise receive treatment feedback and recommendations directly to their device. It’s a growing Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) revolution. The many healthcare apps that encourage daily activity and positive lifestyle choices have mastered the art of psychologically ‘rewarding’ users for their participation and, when used in conjunction with wearable devices such as FitBit, we can see an emerging pattern of self-governance in terms of personal wellness management, something that the NHS are advocating in spades, given their ongoing budgetary constraints.
Empowerment is Key
There’s another great positive to all this of course and that’s the ability for innovation in healthcare to facilitate long term independence for those people who previously would have had to be cared for in a home or other medical facility. It’s not a ‘one-size fits all’ of course, but more and more connected devices are entering the market, allowing (via the Internet of Things) for personal administration and monitoring of medications and giving healthcare providers (and let’s not forget the manufacturers) the data needed to ensure that the treatment plans given are the best fit for the patient and that the devices function as well as they possibly can.
I recently worked on developing a Smart Injector, where the manufacturer mandated that the communication from the injector to the gateway to the cloud and enterprise be gathered, as it is, of course, important that data flow is seamless. The device itself needed to pass information about its performance along with data regarding how well it had delivered the drug. This information is crucial, as it ensures the well-being of the device and certifies its performance as effective and continuous. The benefits to the patient are enormous as devices such as this allow independence while avoiding unnecessary doctor’s visits or even a stay in hospital.
Ultimately, it’s all about empowerment; empowerment for the scientists and practitioners, for the pharmaceutical companies who can seamlessly gather data and continue to make improvements in the drugs they create and, of course, for the patients themselves. Thanks to ongoing global innovations, we can look forward to taking more control of our personal healthcare and to achieving more value in our lives from the many innovations we are and will continue to develop in this vital arena.