For 2018, the mHealth market is forecast to be valued at around 33.59 billion U.S. dollars and it’s expected to reach 58.8 billion USD by 2020. Moreover, the number of telehealth users are expected to reach 7 billion by 2018. These figures unveil the fact that people confide in mobile applications and devices to manage their health and fitness routines.
The systems for delivering care and managing wellness have high expectation from the user-end and is conscious of any fault. That is why, the healthIT has strict hold out for anything average or error-error prone. As a solution to this, the mobile health solutions these days are backed up with advanced technologies that ensure accuracy and offer improved ways to sustain health.
Here, we will talk about some of the technologies that have become an imperative part of healthIT solutions today. They can be amazingly integrated within mobile applications and devices to offer healthcare solution at its best.
a. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Before we actually got introduced with this scientific term called Artificial Intelligence, we were only familiar with the human brain for brilliant cognition abilities. This science of engineering applications (AI) to be able to perform certain tasks, without receiving input from user helps to overcome the limitations of human brain (like ability to manage big data, processing multiple inputs at a time etc.).
Even though AI is still evolving, tech companies like Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Amazon have every confidence in its potential. This can be manifested with some functional examples of how AI is disrupting the healthIT. In the coming time, we could see Artificial Intelligence rendering following benefits to the healthcare industry.
- Healthcare Bots: One of the simplest, or we can say an effective application of AI is bots. Healthcare bots could be the next telehealth solution for instant consultation. They can also be a great asset for scheduling follow-up appointments or other clinical requests. This way, bots can offer 24/7 assistance for basic requests, thereby reducing the administrative cost as well.
- Personal Life Coach: Treating chronic disease means being in touch with the patient, even after the exam room. A number of care centers provide personal life coach to the patients who guide them about do’s and don’ts for an effective recovery. But such programs are not affordable for everyone due to the cost associated with them.
With applications powered by AI, patients can receive feedback on a number of data and information that’s captured on their smartphones or wearable devices. This not only encourage patients to follow rights habits but AI as a personal coach creates customized experience for every patient. This makes it easy for physicians to analyze patient’s health on regular basis, their improvement, and take further steps for treatment accordingly.
Likewise, innovative ideas to integrate AI into healthcare solutions can be adopted. While the real AI is still the near future, advancements in applications of AI like machine learning and big data is proving to be quite productive as much as humans.
Many of you must have known or related blockchain with bitcoin yet. However, bitcoin is actually one of the hundred applications of blockchain technology. To simply define what is blockchain, consider it as an ever growing set of records, maintained in blocks, which is secured using cryptography. This technology in healthcare brings in a lot of advantages, which includes but is not limited to:
- Data Exchange and Interoperability: A discussion about applications of blockchain in healthcare is incomplete without a mention about data exchange. HealthIT systems that are enabled with blockchain can offer solution to various challenges in healthcare, which may include integrity and security of data, its interoperability, big data management and many other. Ideally, blockchain can allow exchanging data between the systems that are cryptographically secured and irrevokable.
- Billing Management and Assessment: In the year 2016, medicare fraud has caused a loss of 30$ million in USA. Across the world, over 5-10% of healthcare cost is fraudulent, i.e. it either results from excessive billing or the bills have been generated from the services that were never rendered. By automating majority of payment processing and adjudication, the intermediary players can be eliminated, resulting in reduced administrative cost.
- Maintain Drug Supply Integrity: A large portion of drugs that’s being sold in developing countries is fake. Annually, a loss of 200$ billion is being confronted by pharmaceutical companies across the world. If a blockchain system is introduced to deal with the problem, there would be a seamless track of every drug-supply chain. Moreover, with add-on functionalities like smart contracts and private keys, there would be a proof of ownership for the drug source.
c. Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been causing disruption in every industry with interconnection of devices via internet. In the healthIT sector, applications of IoT includes smart sensors, remote monitoring, medical device integration etc. While it’s successfully helping the patients to stay safe and healthy, physicians are making the most of it to deliver care. Also, IoT in healthcare is fostering patient engagement and satisfaction as they are able to spend time with the doctors.
- Wearables for Activity Tracking: Wearables have come out to be one of the trending and finest applications of IoT. While wearables are a part of day-to-day lives to track fitness and wellness, they have been a part of various medical researches. Medidata and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) worked collaboratively to study behaviour, movement, and sleep quantity of myeloma patients before and after chemotherapy treatment. The patients were made to wear fitness trackers that gave researchers an understanding of their baseline behaviour, throughout the therapy.
- Drugs with Ingestible Sensors: How effective the treatment would be if doctors could track the effect of a medicine on the patient. Well, that may sound quite obvious to you but how about tracking the results through data and then optimizing therapies and treatments accordingly.
Such an idea has been made functional by Proteus Digital Health that create drugs with sensors. They tested an antisychotic and hypertension pill with sensors for monitoring its adherence. The pill when ingested gets dissolved in stomach and produces a small signal, which is then apprehended by the sensor worn on the body. The data is then relayed to the smartphone app that help physicians to improve clinical outcomes.
d. Virtual Reality
Virtual reality has already exhibited its potential in film-making and video games. And this technology is predicted to make healthcare industry make the most of it. According to a report by Research and Markets, VR is expected to reach 1.45 billion USD by 2020.
The fascinating possibilities of Virtual Reality in healthcare are brought into existence with VR devices that can be integrated with smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices with display. Currently, healthcare industry is reaping benefits of VR with some creative ideas like:
- Virtual Robotic Surgery: This is one of the popular applications of virtual reality, wherein a robotic device performs an operation and is controlled by a human surgeon. This saves time and is also expected to diminish the risk of complications due to human error.
- Conquering Phobias: Psychologists believe in the potential of Virtual Reality for treating phobias. Say, there is a patient with fear of public speaking. VR technology can help him/her to cope up with it by acting amongst the virtual audience.
- Relief from Pain Sensation: Mental distraction from pain has always been its finest remedy. Virtual Reality is proven effective to distract the patients from unpleasant pain and burning sensation with sightseeing that gives pleasure. This idea is being adopted by Brennan Spiegel and his team at Cedars -Sinai hospital (Los Angeles) to help their patients release stress and reduce pain.
With opportunities that Virtual Reality brings into healthcare, coping up with various health and fitness issues in the virtual world is made possible.
e. Augmented Reality (AR)
Bringing your imagination into reality was a long-drawn-out, until we came across this technology called Augmented Reality (AR). The rise of AR and people’s interest to use it has made it one of the preferred technology to be adopted in healthIT. Some of the creative ways this technology is already contributing to the healthcare sector includes:
- Describing Symptoms through AR: One of the biggest challenges that patients confront is describing the symptoms to the doctor so as to receive precise treatment. AR can offer solution to this. The app store has an application called Eye Decide. It uses the smartphone’s camera in order to simulate the impact of certain conditions on human eye. The reaction is then used as an input to determine the problem that the patient might be confronting.
- Training and Education to Students: Medical science education is beyond books and theoretical knowledge. To make the system interesting and easy to grasp, apps powered by AR are making a way. For instance, there are mobile applications that overlay and display anatomical information on a 3D skeleton, enabling the learners do revision about the bones in human body, and understand how the human body operates actually.
How to Integrate Latest Technologies into Healthcare App
While a technology has a lot to contribute, its logical integration to an application is equally important. This can be achieved with the help of full stack developers and healthcare consultants, who knows what it takes to develop an efficient healthcare application.