Five Ways Medical Technology is Making Healthcare More Effective
Mankind has been using medicine and technology to solve health problems as far back as 3300 BC.
However, medical technology today continues to evolve and innovate, making use of computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to support the development of cutting-edge medicine and pioneering operations.
Here are some ways in which medical technology can help healthcare be more effective for its practitioners and patients.
Elon Musk recently introduced Neuralink, a new implantable brain chip that monitors neural activity. In tests, the device was inserted in the brain of a test animal using robot surgeons and sent signals in real-time whenever there was activity in that part of the brain.
Whilst remarkable in itself, this demonstration is also an excellent representation of the technological future of surgery.
Surgery is a highly-specialised field and results often depend on the skill of the surgeon, but, as with any role, there is also the risk of human error. In addition, some operations may present themselves as too complicated for even the most skilled surgeon.
Fortunately, as the Neuralink implant has shown, robot-assisted surgeries could help with more complex cases in the future. Similar procedures that require extreme precision, like microsurgeries and brain operations, if carried out with the help of surgical robots, could considerably bring down the risk to the patient.
What’s more, since these robots have ‘laser focus’ and can be quite small, they can access hard-to-reach parts of the body and operate on them with minimal invasion. As a result, these significantly bring down the risk of infection or complications after the operation. Smaller incisions also mean a reduced stay in hospital and quicker recovery time.
As the name suggests, genomics is the study of genes and how they affect the body. Because of the vast amount of information contained within them, genes could not be ‘decoded’ until the industry developed enough technological computing power.
With the help of computers that can handle vast quantities of data, scientists are continuing to decipher the role of genes in human health and can now explain how they can affect the likelihood of contracting a disease.
Additionally, genomics can help detect cancer, which, as a result, can help medicine become more focused, providing targeted treatments. These solutions, in turn, can reduce the need for preventative surgeries or over-medication.
Cost can be an important factor when considering prosthetics, especially for children, who quickly outgrow their artificial limbs and need regular replacements. Medical manufacturers are already printing 3D bionic limbs and prosthetics, which are much cheaper than traditional versions.
However, future technological advancements mean that not only will manufacturers be able to print out prosthetics but also organs for transplants.
People who need replacement organs currently have to wait for a suitable donor, which can sometimes take months. With 3D bio-printing, patients would only need to wait as long as it takes to create the organ.
Another point to consider is that 3D printed organs can be built using a patient’s cells, which are artificially grown and layered to create living tissue. Since the organ is ‘printed’ using the recipient’s own biological material, there is little to no chance of organ rejection or the need for drugs to suppress the immune system.
Additionally, 3D printed organs could eliminate the need for animal or even human testing. This may pave the path for personalised medicine, developed for an individual after testing it on organs and tissues created from their cells.
Diagnoses and Treatments
Whilst the human brain can easily miss details or skim over anomalies, we know that AI eliminates this risk. Equally, computers can review vast amounts of data quickly and remain accurate even after hours of repetitive work. This quality makes them perfect for making diagnoses based on previous medical history, no matter how long or complicated.
In addition, AI could also be used for administrative hospital tasks, including helping to schedule procedures, monitoring patients after surgery, or even requesting stock.
Technology could also make complex medical information easier to understand. We at One Beyond recently worked with multinational medical equipment manufacturing company, Smith & Nephew (S&N) plc to help them with a similar requirement.
Each time S&N’s surgical robot is used in a procedure, it generates rich data, which could offer surgeons valuable insights into operating performance and outcomes. But the data is so complex that, until now, only specialist engineers could interpret it.
We collaborated with Euriscus Ltd and Imperial College London to transform complex, procedural data generated from a surgical robot into intuitive dashboards that could be easily visualised by their customers.
This solution is an excellent example of how AI can process and simplify complex information. It allows medical professionals to understand the insights produced as a result of the use of robotics in medicine and surgeries.
Training and Remote Consultation
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are two types of technologies that can help medicine and surgery. Simulations of the human body using VR and overlays of internal organs using AR could replace the need for cadavers in the study of the human anatomy. As a result, doctors in training can get a more realistic view of a living patient’s anatomy.
These reality technologies can also be used to assist robotic surgeries, where surgeons can get an enhanced view of the area they are operating on. They can then control the medial device they’re using to make smaller incisions for a more accurate operation.
Pain management and pain therapy have also shown promising results when used with VR as a distraction tool. When patients undergo a painful procedure or treatment whilst absorbed in a simulation, they have reported experiencing less pain.
Finally, in addition to physical health, VR can also be used for mental and psychological therapy. Here, it can be used to help patients deal with the fear of heights, crowds, open spaces, or even triggers for their PTSD as the patient can experience different situations in the relative safety of the therapist’s consulting room.
As you can see, the medical industry can be made much safer and more efficient with the use of technology. With the right technological partner, you can create processes and solutions that will benefit you and your patients immensely.