A recent study of healthcare executives revealed that 45% of those surveyed believe the rapid advancement in new technology and innovations are positioned to disrupt the healthcare industry. According to Dr. Kaveh Safavi, Senior Managing Director at Accenture’s Health practice, “the future of care will demand rethinking core assumptions about the intersection of people and technology.”
The same research reports that 69% of healthcare payers and providers are currently adopting or piloting artificial intelligence (AI) as part of their protocols. The use of AI, machine learning, and predictive analytics are just a few of the emerging healthcare technologies that we’re seeing continue to evolve in 2021.
Artificial Intelligence and Predictive Modeling
Research continues on the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning algorithms to create predictive analytic models. In such cases, software can be used to monitor patients and warn them of potential adverse events.
Doctors at New York’s Mount Sinai Health System built a machine learning model that helped more quickly identify high risk and mortality likelihood in COVID-19 patients. By analyzing data from more than 4,000 patients, clinicians were able to predict critical events, such as intubation or mortality.
IoT and Wearables
The proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) devices in healthcare has made it easier for remote monitoring of patients. The next generation of wearables is allowing patients to be monitored at home for a variety of conditions, including heart health, neurological disorders, and sleep patterns.
Connected blood pressure cuffs can send data directly to doctors. Wearables can detect disruptions to sleep patterns, respiration rates, and glucose levels among other things.
Wearables are also being tested for use in detecting symptoms of mental illness or trigger episodes for patients. Behavioral sensing built into smartphone apps has been tested to assess patients showing a high risk for violence. Research is also underway on wearables that can detect a patient’s daily moods to better evaluate medication effectiveness.
Using a digital file, scientists are now printing solid, three-dimensional objects using an additive process to mix liquid metals, ceramics, resins, and even living cells. 3D printed drugs may be targeted to specific patients.
Future uses might include using stem cell material to create living human tissue. 3D printed human tissue cells are already being used for drug testing and development.
CRISPR is a technology used to find specific DNA strands within a cell. Once identified, CRISPR enables gene-editing, including turning genes on or off without impacting their sequencing. IT has dramatically changed the field. Before CRISPR, gene editing could take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars. CRISPR is producing faster results that are significantly less expensive. CRISPR gene-editing applications are expected to become a $5.3 billion technology by 2025 and impact everything from healthcare to agriculture to biofuels. Taking a CRISPR course will help professionals understand the potential of CRISPR technology.
Cytogenetics is a sub-category of genetics that focuses on DNA structure within the nucleus of a cell, studying a chromosome’s morphology.
Testing samples of tissue, blood, or bone marrow can reveal changes in a chromosome, such as broken, missing, or extra chromosomes that may indicate genetic diseases or some forms of cancer.
Nanotechnology is being used to treat patients by injecting tiny nanorobots into a patient’s bloodstream for targeted drug delivery. Therapeutic nanoparticles have the potential for widespread use in treating cancer patients, for example, to reduce toxicity or deliver medication directly to damaged cells to minimize risk to healthy tissue.
Nanoparticles can also be equipped with sensors that are capable of providing pinpoint monitoring within patients and apply treatments directly. One research project is looking at the use of nanotechnology to diagnose and treat atherosclerosis to reduce plaque in arteries. Researchers developed a nanoparticle that mimics high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good cholesterol”) to shrink the plaque. Scientists are also studying ways to use nanomedicine for a more efficient way to improve vaccine delivery without the use of needles.
Researchers at The Ohio State University expect to be able to build complex DNA robots in minutes using software they developed. One such robot they created is 1000 times smaller than the width of a human hair and is shaped like an airplane. It has tiny claws that can pick up smaller items.
Software as a Medical Device
You’ve probably heard of Software as a Service (SaaS), but are you aware of Software as a Medical Device (SaMD)? The International Medical Device Regulators Forum (IMDRF) considers SaMD as software used for a medical purpose that is not part of a hardware device.
In other words, software that’s not tied to a particular device and can be run on general computing platforms. SaMD is evolving as a way to detect, diagnose, monitor, and suggest treatments for disease mitigation.
Improving Patient Care
While many of these technologies aren’t new, significant advances are taking place on a regular basis. As technology continues to evolve, it creates new opportunities for improved patient care.