Healthcare is an industry that keeps up with the times and utilises modern technology to its full extent wherever possible. In these modern times of instant gratification and personalisation, healthcare has stepped up to an anytime, anyplace, constant and continuous personalised industry. It’s crucial to know what’s next in new technologies that will affect the healthcare industry by 2025.
Advancements in computing, nanotechnology, electronics, and machine learning will make the biggest impact on healthcare. The following ten technologies will substantially reshape the healthcare industry in the coming years.
1. Quantum Computing
Supercomputers will no longer be able to handle the larger data sets that will be required for healthcare research, analysis, and delivery. They won’t be fast enough to compute sets of genome sequences and determine how environmental, hereditary, and behavioural variables affect the health of individuals. Quantum computers will take over as part of solving these more complicated healthcare problems.
2. AI – Artificial Intelligence
Human intelligence is only limited where volumes of data need to be processed quickly and efficiently. Artificial Intelligence (AI), speeds up processing by leaps and bounds above what is humanly possible, and also do it more efficiently. Atomwise is being used in certain areas for making accurate diagnoses and predicting what therapies and/or drugs will work best for a patient. Google DeepMind Health is another fast and efficient method for mining medical records to enhance healthcare service delivery.
Robotics have been used in healthcare for several years. One example is the Da Vinci surgical robot. In the next decade, you can expect to see more robotics emerge in healthcare. InTouch Health is a good example of what’s to come. This technology allows a doctor to examine a patient from a distant location or from a computer in the office, with or without the patient being present. TUG robots by Aethon help in hospitals by transporting lab samples, pharmacy supplies, food, trash, and clean soiled linens without human assistance. Elderly patients can currently be helped via robots that lift them from their beds into their wheelchairs and vice versa. Robotics like PARO, NAO, and Milo are invaluable in paediatric therapies for children with autism, phobias, and other disorders.
Nano technology is emerging and evolving quickly. Nanorobots are tiny enough to travel through patients’ bloodstreams, which will be great for eliminating infections, targeting therapies like cancer, and could even be programmed to perform in situ surgery. Ongoing research and testing is needed before this technology is introduced, but it could be seen by 2025.
The prosthetics industry will be transformed by cyborgisation. You already see it to some extent with organ transplants, internal electronics, and limb replacements, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg as this new technology evolves. The hope for this technology is to help people by enhancing or replacing their lost senses, allowing freedom of movement, and other sophisticated bodily functions. RFID chips show some promise. There is intense research being done right now related to creating an artificial pancreas.
6. Brain-Computer Interface
Stemming from cyborgisation, the brain-computer interface ideal will directly connect the human brain to an external device. Currently, this kind of technology is used for brain-mapping and research, but applications are in development to use this technology to bypass neural pathways that may help paralysed patients regain feeling and movement in their limbs. Some examples of this technology that is already in use include pacemakers for regulating the heartbeat and cochlear implants to enhance hearing. Retinal implants and spinal cord stimulators are in development.
7. Advanced Diagnostic Devices
If you’ve watched any television shows or movies from the Star Trek franchise, you’ve heard of a medical tricorder. That very handheld device is now a real possibility. The development process for the medical tricorder is coming along, but is currently limited in the ability to diagnose. This technology is expected to grow and evolve, and should be available commercially by 2025. It will likely be used for self-diagnosis.
8. Digital Avatars
Once you use the tricorder to self-diagnose, you might need to speak with a doctor. Telehealth, currently in use, is an option, but over the next decade, you may see another AI technology emerge. A digital avatar will appear as a holographic projection of a human doctor that will be able to process several queries simultaneously. It will also be able to schedule appointments when necessary and share notes from your conversation with your doctor.
9.Virtual or Augmented Reality
You may envision virtual reality (VR) as a gaming application, but it has real-world therapy applications in healthcare and that will continue to evolve. It will be used for educational purposes for healthcare professionals as well as for various patient therapies. Augmented reality could be used for looking into anatomical structures during surgery to enhance the view of organs and blood vessels, making surgery a bit less risky. Patients with phobias and various mental disorders are already being helped using VR and AR, but the evolution of this technology will bring more applications by 2025.
3D printing technology is already being used for creating implants and orthopaedic devices, but more applications will emerge over the coming decade. It’s also been used recently to create 3D images of the head and brain to do surgeries that, until now, were only a dream. The possibility of bioprinting tissues and organs is within the scope of this technology. It will also be used in drug development, similar to what Organovo currently offers.
The medical applications for current, emerging, and future technologies is limitless. The next ten years will prove interesting in the field of healthcare for educational purposes as well as for patient therapies. Stay tuned for massive changes!