Welcome to Thomas Insights — every day, we publish the latest news and analysis to keep our readers up to date on what’s happening in industry. Sign up here to get the day’s top stories delivered straight to your inbox.
Each year, technology brings groundbreaking new developments to the healthcare industry. From mind-controlled robotic limbs to nanotechnology treatments for eye conditions, technology has the potential to improve patient outcomes by leaps and bounds.
The pandemic has, understandably, caused health-tech companies to refocus their efforts to accommodate the changing dynamics of patient care. Today, technology plays a role in everything from remote patient treatment to optimizing hospital administration. Here are some ways that new innovations are anticipated to disrupt the healthcare industry this year.
AI for Mental Health Care
Artificial intelligence has been used to make promising inroads in the early prediction of Alzheimer’s, as well as to capture and organize messy data from medical images, doctors’ notes, and other sources of unstructured data. However, AI is also helping the healthcare industry advance in two key areas: mental health care and preventative care.
Tools like Lucid Lane and Babylon Health use AI to monitor and serve patients 24/7. Chatbots can understand patient needs and route them to the appropriate doctor or care provider, or answer a patient’s questions without the need for human intervention. Lucid Lane’s AI tracks patient symptoms between appointments, flagging patients who need urgent attention. Babylon Health provides a chatbot that helps doctors and nurses complete administrative tasks more efficiently, thereby freeing more time for patient support.
“AI and machine learning have the potential to revolutionize the way we diagnose and treat mental health conditions,” wrote Adnan Asar, CEO and founder of Lucid Lane. “In the future, algorithms may be our first line of defense against the mental health struggles that can be debilitating for so many people.”
Moreover, a recent survey suggests that many people may actually prefer to “talk” to an AI program about their mental health. In fact, only 18% of people surveyed preferred to talk to a human about their problems, implying that 82% would prefer to talk to a robot.
3D Printing for Tissues and Skin
3D printing is rapidly becoming an affordable way to manufacture prototypes, prosthetics, tissue and skin, and even pharmaceuticals.
“Using stem cells as a production material to create organs and significantly impacting the organ transplant process, burn victims can find relief with 3D printed skin, as skin grafts can be painful and unsightly,” wrote Referral MD. “With 3D printing, professionals are using human plasma and skin biopsies from the patient as the production material to create new human skin — giving burn victims a better quality of life.”
Not only can experts print human material, but they can also use 3D printing to improve diagnostic imaging. Experts can take a 2D scan or X-ray image and turn it into a 3D model, gaining deeper insight and a more comprehensive picture to inform treatment options.
Extended Reality for Training and Treatment
Extended Reality (XR) is the broader category that encompasses virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). Extended reality provides opportunities for improving training and treatment for doctors and patients. With AR, for instance, physicians can operate on virtual patients without the risk of failure; with more practice, surgeons can upskill and become more equipped to perform procedures without making mistakes.
XR can also improve the patient experience. VRSANO, for example, develops a brain-computer interface that combines VR, neurofeedback, and clinical hypnosis principles to optimize health outcomes.
“The startup’s patented method pulls medical patients out of a state of distress by immersing them in a relaxing virtual world. It induces a psychophysiological state that helps patients with their mental health needs,” reported StartUs Insights. “The platform alleviates symptoms and improves long-term patient outcomes while lowering healthcare costs.”
Artificial intelligence, 3D printing, XR, and telehealth solutions are just the tip of the iceberg for what’s possible with medical tech. The pandemic may have changed the focus of health-tech companies in the short term, but the long-term implications still leave plenty of room for exploration and discovery.
Image Credit: M_Agency / Shutterstock.com