‘Consumers around the world are ready to embrace AI and robotics for their healthcare needs’ says Dennis Brown from PwC.
According to PwC research more than half of customers (54%) are willing to engage with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics for their healthcare needs. Easier and quicker accessibility (34%) as well as faster and more accuracy (31%) are seen as the main advantages of using new technology in the healthcare, while ‘human touch’ (47%) and trust (38%) are the biggest challenges.
As the healthcare industry is experiencing its most rapid pace of change and innovation, it comes as no surprise that people are finally ready to embrace emerging technologies, which, undoubtedly, have the potential to transform the healthcare, and make it faster, better, more accurate and accessible than ever.
But what are the emerging technologies and how exactly can they change, and improve the healthcare sector?
Let’s find out now!
‘Technological innovations brought about by robotics, virtual reality, automation/artificial intelligence, 3D printing and drones are all worth investigating, having the potential to disrupt the health industry and ultimately improve it.’
As stated by PwC in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, Prof Marc de Smet has been developing the microrobot for almost ten years! ‘Preceyes’ is believed to revolutionise eyes operations and surgeries, especially those where the high level of precision is necessary to succeed. Microrobots will soon transform not only retinal surgery but also the way eye conditions caused by genetic defects are treated.
‘Eye surgery demands a high level of skill and we have pretty much reached a limit as to what we can currently do unassisted. However, last year, we had a major breakthrough when we used robot-assisted surgery for the first time on the human eye.’
Prof Marc de Smet
Another example of the robotics utilised in the healthcare is ‘CyberKnife’ treatment, which is operated by a private hospital in Ireland, and it delivers treatment for types of cancer and neurological conditions that were previously considered untreatable!
Here are some other examples of robotics treatment solutions (and not only) in the healthcare industry you might find interesting:
- KASPAR is a child-sized humanoid robot designed to help teachers and parents support children with autism.
- Giraff is a mobile communication robot that facilitates a chronically ill patients’ contact with the outside world. It is remote-controlled on wheels, and has a camera and monitor.
- Bestic is a robotic-assisted dining appliance for people who are unable to move their arms or hands.
- Toyota has created four robots that enable immobilised patients to walk or balance.
- Xenex robots disinfect hospital facilities using UV light, destroying microorganism that can cause hospital acquired infections.
- Aethon’s TUG robots automate the delivery and transportation of the immense amount of materials – including food, laundry and prescriptions – that move through a hospital every day, freeing staff to focus on patient care.
- Veebot is a robot that can draw blood faster and more safely than a human.
2. Virtual Reality
One particularly interesting example of VR technology utilised in the healthcare industry is a Swedish pharmacy chain Apotek Hjärtat, which provides its customers with a virtual reality experience that can help alleviate pain and discomfort during certain treatments such as vaccination. During a virtual reality experience, the customer is taken to a serene lakeside paradise where they can interact with the surroundings. They can trigger music they like, light a fire or even beckon a sea monster by simply looking at different objects! The whole VR experience makes patients forget about the pain, what as a result makes the whole treatment more bearable and comfortable for them.
One of the ongoing researches in the USA is aiming to create handheld device that could diagnose up to 13 health conditions and capture the key vital signs of a patient. PwC describes them as ‘consumer-operated “Star Trek” style tricorders’, which will perform duties, which are currently the responsibility of the primary care workers. Devices will be engineered so that they can integrate existing health technologies automatically in the home and combine various data points to generate the relevant information for patients as well as physicians. This means that doctors will be able to make a diagnosis/decide on a course of treatment without physically seeing the patient!
4. 3D Printing
Although, 3D printing is not an emerging technology as it has been used for many years now, it can provide new solutions in the healthcare industry. In Ireland, some Orthodontists use 3D printing, for example, to scan a patient’s teeth for purposes impressions/crowns where restoration can be produced with a perfect fit. PwC research highlights that 3D printing is also being used to produce customised hearing aids and even epilepsy medication.
Rwanda presents us with the only example of utilisng drones for medical delivery service on a national scale in the world. Essentially, urgent medical supplies and blood products are delivered to patients when they need it regardless of where they live. This service, which started in October 2016, is saving lives and having an impact on health care by reducing the time taken to deliver urgent medical supplies! However, in other countries this kind of technology for medical purposes is still in the development. PwC states that we also need to take into consideration factors such as cost and regulation before deploying it into other countries.
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