Emerging technologies have the potential to completely redesign healthcare. With the impending move towards smart cities, it only makes sense that our healthcare becomes smarter. Rapid developments within reality technologies and artificial intelligence have seen undeniable impact on sectors such as retail, sport, manufacturing and finance, but the possible usage of these technologies within healthcare could revolutionise the medical profession globally.
Earlier this year, a report conducted by Grand View Research Inc. forecast that reality technology industry within healthcare would be worth $5.1 billion by 2025, meaning that virtual and augmented reality are set to disrupt the outdated practises of the healthcare industry.
Augmented reality promises improvements within surgical accuracy and the teaching of anatomy using scalable 3D virtual simulations. The real advantage of AR is that it is a mixed reality platform. Users can interact with the augmented simulation against their real-life surroundings, enabling an accurate, palpable learning experience.
HoloLens is one of the most exciting prospects for medical education. Developed by Microsoft, HoloLens is a self-contained, holographic computer which allows users to interact with holograms and digital content in your surrounding environment. HoloLens could prove a valuable technology in teaching medical students about anatomy. Students can walk around and interact with the simulation, allowing for a more detailed understanding of how the human body is formed.
Augmented reality’s potential is not just limited to education and medical training. Medisights Tech have developed an optical sensor that uses multi-model spectroscopy to accurately identify what organs and tissues are near the tip of a procedural instrument. This could prevent complications from surgery due to misplaced insertions or injections. We are also seeing this technology used to direct doctors or nurses to veins and AR X-ray technologies to give medical professionals the tools for increased accuracy and decrease complication rates.
Reality technologies are not just limited to augmented reality, however. Medical training could drastically improve using virtual reality technologies. Surgical simulations or virtual surgeries could be used to train medical students or even refresh the knowledge medical professionals. The simulations could be a stepping stone between theory and practise, allowing students to operate and perform procedures on medically accurate human simulations without the threat of fatal consequence.
Remote surgery is another breakthrough within medical usage of VR. Doctors and surgeons can now perform surgery on a patient without physically being there. This could be a crucial breakthrough for patients suffering from rare diseases who require treatment from a specialised medical professional the other side of the world. There has also been a keen interest in robotic surgery by the military due the exceeding difficulties of evacuating casualties to the appropriate medical facility.
Artificial intelligence is another area in which healthcare could see ground-breaking advancements. AI has incredible potential and its usage within healthcare stretches further than the implementation of robotic assistants within hospitals and surgeries. The access to big data and AI’s colossal capabilities of data analysis that could drastically improve diagnostics, treatment and efficiency within the NHS.
Firstly, let’s get the robots out the way. Robotic medical assistants could become the norm within the next few years. Anhui Provincial Hospital is already trialling receptionist powered by iFlyTek’s AI technology to direct patients to the appropriate department based off of their disclosed symptoms. This is because the AI receptionists have immediate access to hundreds and thousands of medical journals, textbooks and research reports. Within a few seconds, the AI assistants analyse records and accurately match the patient’s symptoms to a possible diagnosis.
With this impressive data analytic skill, artificial intelligence could be used to improve the accuracy of diagnoses and recommend specific treatment plans based on up-to-date studies and research as well as a patient’s medical history. Major players within technology, like Google and IBM, are developing AI software to improve the speed and accuracy of patient diagnosis and treatment. DeepMind and WatsonPaths both aim to support and improve the NHS by providing tools to analyse test results, determine treatment and help medical professionals make well-informed decisions faster.
But, it is not just the tech giants dominating the data mining within healthcare, start ups like Careskore, Zephyr Health and Sentrian are aiming to provide a clearer picture of a patient’s health, prevent illness and speed up medical research and market application.
With research by Frost & Sullivan estimating that AI will generate $6.7 billion in global revenue by 2021, start ups are looking to harness the potential of AI healthcare. Artificial intelligence can offer suggestions, improve accuracy and efficiency, and generally take strain of the already overworked and understaffed medical sector.
Developing emerging technologies is expensive and the initial move towards the implementation of these emerging technologies and the collaboration with medtech companies could prove costly to the NHS. However, the technology is there and these technologies are crucial in advancing healthcare to the standard it’s truly capable of.
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