New technologies are driving revolutionary change in the medical industry, which will make gathering health data and going to the doctor look a lot different a decade from now.
Last year alone US$6.5 billion was invested in health start-ups. Five technology trends in particular appear to be accelerating progress. They include: connected medical devices, quantified health metrics, cloud-based health records, telemedicine or doctors on call, and 3-D bioprinting.
Connected medical devices will form part of a network of health devices like pacemakers, insulin pumps, and fitness bands. The innovations in this area are being led by companies like Gartner and Qualcomm. The former is working on 2net, a platform that will allow users to store, display, and share their health data. The latter is working on handheld monitors and diagnostic tools that will sync with existing cloud platforms like Phillips’ Healthsuite.
Quantified health metrics will help us make sense of all the data received from connected medical devices. In this category Google has launched Google Fit to aggregate health data and Apple has Healthkit, designed to track weight changes, heart rate statistics, and blood pressure readings. Being able to analyze the patient data will allow greater and more efficient intervention when it comes to treatment.
Cloud-based health records will make it easier for patients to share their data no matter where they are. Right now, most health systems are linked to computer hardware and servers, so the move will be a long process but it will make everyone’s lives simpler once complete.
Having doctors on call is becoming a greater possibility with the widespread access to email, video-calling, and mobile apps. According to a Towers Watson study, telemedicine would save employers US$6 billion annually by eliminating the need for employees to always go to doctor’s offices. That’s a good incentive to get the program going.
3-D bioprinting is the most exciting development on this list. This technology could help telemedicine by allowing patients to print their medication at home. Also, if doctors succeed in creating a way to 3D printer replacement organs, many people’s lives would be saved, who otherwise would have had to wait for organ donors.
The most achievable goal right now is printing prosthetics, and the market for this is estimated to exceed $4 billion by 2018!