As human beings, we are privileged to possess the necessary capabilities to innovate and constantly improve the world we live in. Usually, it takes adverse times like a global pandemic to shake up our existing problem-solving strategies and invite us to embrace new solutions. Recently, Covid-19 has been a real accelerator and driving force for innovative human enthusiasm to digitise healthcare. To help you imagine the full scope of digital healthcare potential, industry experts estimate that in 2025, spending on field development will most likely reach around a trillion dollars.
Working in a bespoke software development company focused on developing solutions for healthcare and pharma companies, I see the massive surge in demand for intelligent technology that helps businesses overcome market challenges and secure strategic advantages. One thing that nearly all innovations revolve around is undoubtedly the technology aspect. In fact, Miles Romney, co-founder and CTO of a telehealth company, argues that by 2050 digital healthcare won’t exist anymore because it would simply be referred to as “healthcare”.
Let’s explore what the near future of healthcare holds.
All-Digital Patient Platforms
All-digital healthcare platforms currently exist and provide various services such as appointment scheduling, online doctor calls or e-Prescriptions. However, some are still an entry point to secure an actual doctor’s office visit or provide hybrid options for both remote and on-site consultations. In the future, many patients expect to have a fully remote patient platform for an all-digital experience. The steps preceding this future of healthcare include digitalising patient health records, ensuring system security and personal data privacy as well as providing a seamless user experience. Of course, if telemedicine aims to expand globally, secure and accessible Internet connection remains an inevitable challenge, admits Heidi West, Zoom’s Head of Healthcare.
Despite experts claiming that the pandemic accelerated healthcare digitalisation, let’s not forget that there is a lot of expertise coming into play when designing and developing a digital healthcare platform. For example, the need for impeccable security compliance standards such as GDPR, HIPAA, PHIPA and HITECH is more than evident, which means a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, business representatives and software development companies working together to create a single all-digital platform.
Tech-Enhanced Drug Development
One of the greatest scientific achievements in modern human history was the parallel development of multiple efficient and safe to use Covid-19 vaccines in record time – less than a year! All this was possible not only thanks to regulatory expediting and faster FDA approvals but also by technological advancements in the way medical trials are conducted. For example, virtual clinical trials, which were largely conducted online, eased patient participation and consecutive peer reviews led to faster vaccine discovery.
So how does the future of healthcare look like after the pandemic subsides? In March 2021, the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reported that machine learning (ML) could play a pivotal role in accelerating drug discovery. Nevertheless, the speed won’t be at the cost of a drug’s efficiency or reliability. According to Bin Zhang from MIT, a new ML-based technique called DeepBAR will help researchers calculate binding affinities between candidate drugs and body proteins, speeding up the entire drug development process.
Tech-Driven Medical Devices
Technology has been behind all significant medical discoveries and developments. Take the discovery of penicillin as an example: Alexander Fleming’s initial discovery was in 1928, but it was not until 1939 that researchers began to experiment in laboratory conditions. Thankfully, the available technology back then, such as countercurrent systems and improvised new cooling systems, was sufficient enough to successfully purify and isolate the life-saving drug. Yet, imagine what would have happened and how many more human lives could have been saved if only researchers could rely on more advanced technologies.
Fast-forward to the present days when we perceive robotic surgical systems or precise medical imaging procedures as normal things. However, it took many decades and the cumulative efforts of many devoted professionals to come to where we are. Nowadays, we can observe many emerging tech-driven devices for personalised healthcare at home such as test kits, monitors (e.g. glucose or blood pressure) or tracking sensory equipment connected to a mobile device, conveniently allowing patients to be more proactive and engaged with their personal health.
Quantum and Supercomputing to Improve Diagnosis
You’re probably heard of IMB’s supercomputer called Watson that managed to beat the other contestants in the quiz show Jeopardy. In 2017, the company pitched Watson for revolutionising the field of oncology. Because he can process around 200 million pages of content in just under three seconds, he has a knowledge advantage over his human colleagues after a short time. Watson should also support doctors in their search for treatment methods.
Currently, an US’s insurance leader utilises the superpowers of quantum computers for medical purposes and reshapes the future of healthcare as a whole. Expectations are that quantum computing is fully capable of proving itself for general health purposes such as longitudinal population health modelling to serve the public sector better and even predict or, hopefully, prevent future pandemics.
Global Digital Healthcare Initiatives
While many still mourn the old normal, a brand new normal is being moulded. The pandemic and its massive impact are urging national governments to rethink long-term strategies to cope with unprecedented future scenarios and rapidly changing medical trends to serve the global population better. One such trend is the increased personalisation of medical services and empowering patients to understand their health-related data through developing accessible mHealth applications.
In an effort to develop a more stable, comprehensive and robust future of healthcare, medical experience, scientific expertise, and information technologies unite forces to design intelligent digital applications. Global leading economies intensively work on implementing digital smart health systems on a national level with the help of national policies, state guidance, business alliances and NGOs as key players.
Innovative Wearable Devices
Health-related wearable devices are increasingly becoming part of telemedical treatment strategies. They are helping hospitals and doctors remotely monitor their patients’ health data (remote patient control) – a trend that is likely to accelerate in the years to come. Therefore, long-term therapies or examinations over several weeks and months can be carried out more conveniently. Thus, a crucial element will be data security and compliance with data protection regulations and then used as efficiently as possible to deliver high-quality care.
Wearables have long been playing a crucial role in the healthcare sector. For example, smart health products like smartwatches or fitness trackers can already help doctors detect signs of cardiac arrhythmias, nocturnal breathing disorders like sleep apnea. This information can then be shared securely with the treating doctor and adapted into an individual treatment plan and wearables can support patients with regime improvements or lifestyle changes.
Author Biography Aleksandrina Vasileva
Aleksandrina is a Content Creator at Dreamix, a custom software development company, and is keen оn innovative technological solutions with a positive impact on our world. Her teaching background, mixed with interests in psychology, drives her to share knowledge. She is an avid reader and an enthusiastic blogger, always looking for the next inspiration.