Covid-19 was an eye-opener in regards to just how vulnerable our global healthcare system is. It was thanks to Healthcare Technology, or HealthTech, that many healthcare providers and medical facilities succeeded in keeping up with the heavy patient load during severe pandemic waves. Now that we know that we rely on technology during challenging times, we can prepare better for what comes next.
The power of meaningful technology for today’s increasingly digitized society. Young people want convenient, flexible, and fast digital solutions that allow them to take care of their own health. Elderly citizens who still practice strict social distancing can also benefit from HealthTech solutions adapted to their needs. Let’s see exactly which are the top ten innovations across the sector:
E-Health describes the use of information and communication technologies and applying them to the healthcare sector in areas such as telemedicine, mobile health or Electronic Patient Records (EHRs). In particular, E-Health platforms address cross-institutional, networked business and supply processes that are highly relevant to the modern healthcare industry and go far beyond simply administrative activities such as billing, purchasing equipment etc.
For example, patients’ EHRs make it possible to transparently store and access the entire medical history of a patient for all authorized service providers involved in the treatment process so that care and treatment can be optimally designed if necessary. New mobile apps and communication tools with embedded patient consent management features aim to protect sensitive patient data according to the highest industry regulations.
2.Digital Vaccine Passports
Vaccines against Covid-19 are a light at the end of the tunnel, but their distribution and verification proved to be significant challenges. Software development companies worldwide are currently trying to approach this sensitive matter by creating digital vaccine passports that eliminate the need to carry paper documents.
The most promising and easy to integrate technology is a QR code scanner, integrated within a mobile health app that extracts information from the EHR of a patient. This way, authorities will have a convenient way to check a person’s status and view the vaccine administration data, which will ease verification when crossing international borders. A potential challenge of this approach is that people without smartphones won’t be able to take advantage of digital passports when they come into use.
3.Smart Wearable Devices
Wearable technology has a broad spectrum of applications in healthcare. In recent years, fitness bracelets with features such as steps counting, pulse measurement or tracking sleep cycle have been very popular, especially among young people.
This comes to say that the newer generations, including millennials and Generation Z, are more concerned about taking care of their health. By keeping track of essential metrics, smart wearable devices allow users both to be trendy and lead a healthy lifestyle.
4.Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) represents an alternative way to monitor a patient who is not physically present in a hospital or other healthcare facility. RPM usually happens using smart devices that track either overall vital signs or target specific health parameters such as blood pressure, blood sugar or cholesterol levels.
RPM is a convenient and cost-friendlier way for doctors to stay in touch with their patients. Medical professionals have access to real-time data and can easily track essential metrics on a daily basis. To monitor patients’ health via RPM, patients’ engagement with their own health and their preparedness for cooperation needs to be high as this is crucial for recovery or optimal chronic disease management.
5.AI and ML in Healthcare
This list of innovations in the HealthTech sector wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). The development of software solutions based on AI and ML is booming right now because of the incredible capabilities that come with these cutting-edge technologies.
AI’s applications in healthcare are so many that it would be impossible to list them all here. To only mention a few, AI can be successfully utilized during diagnostics, symptom checking, development of new medications, increasing accuracy and minimizing human errors.
Smart pills represent tiny biometric scanners that need to be swallowed to assist doctors in a number of medical procedures, including diagnostics, measuring internal temperature, pH levels etc. Essentially, these smart pills with embedded sensors are inside the patient’s body only for a limited time and then leave the body the natural way.
They will pass through the person’s system after their work is done, unlike a pacemaker that remains permanently implanted after a medical procedure. Smart pills can also help navigate other drugs “find their way” in the body and help with drug administration.
Blockchain technology increasingly finds its way into the HealthTech sector. This is due to the fact that blockchain offers far more security than traditional data protection methods, allowing transparency. After a block is created, it can no longer be subject to modification, preventing potential fraud attempts and sensitive data leakage.
There are even ambitious ideas of building an innovative single global blockchain to use as a universal global EHR in a highly secure digital environment that is specially encrypted, transparent and accessible for the general public if authorized by the patient.
8.Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)
Internet of Medical Things, or IoMT, as a concept resembles the Internet of Things (IoT). Put simply, this is e network of interconnected digital devices that communicate with each other by constantly exchanging data using special protocols and WiFi signal.
IoMT can have various applications within the healthcare sector, such as patient monitoring, remote control of implantable devices. Vitals, e.g. heart rate, blood pressure or blood sugar, can be tracked in real-time and then directly shared with the medical provider to gain insights.
9.Personalization as Trend
One of the most evident healthcare trends is the personalization of products and services. It is achieved thanks to personal data collection and detailed analytics using AI technologies. Especially the younger generations enjoy this higher degree of personalization, e.g. menstrual cycle tracking or fitness progress apps with improvement suggestions based on clinical evidence.
Living in the digital era, we humans produced roughly 2,5 quintillion data bytes on an average data during 2020. Although this may have to with the lockdowns and increased online presence, in the future, we will most likely keep up this tempo, and personalized preferences and ads will continue to play a crucial role.
10.AR and VR Technologies
Artificial Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies applied to healthcare are also promising to become a trend in 2021. These devices can be used to enhance the communication between doctors and patients, assist medical students in their education and replicate complex simulations of operations to prepare surgeons.
Moreover, AR and VR technologies can be beneficial for post-operational treatment for recovering motor functions or for patients who suffered strokes or dementia to help regain cognitive abilities.