Insights for Organisations

Technology and healthcare: What does the future hold?

Consultancy Services Team

The healthcare industry is adapting to challenging demands and embracing technological advancements, an approach that will be pivotal in facilitating sustainable healthcare systems across the globe. This profound transformation has been catalysed by a number of advanced technologies, namely AI, robotics, and enhanced reality. These innovations will pave the way for a future where medical practices are characterised by heightened efficiency, personalised interventions, and increased accessibility. Let’s explore eight ways technology is changing healthcare, as well as the opportunities and challenges they pose…

What’s in this article?

Executive summary

Imagine a world where healthcare isn’t just about treating illnesses, but about predicting, preventing, and personalising patient care. That world is closer than you think, thanks to the plethora of technological advancements sweeping through the healthcare industry.

From AI decoding medical mysteries to health trackers and wearables empowering individuals to take charge of their health journey, the future of healthcare is brighter and more personalised than ever! But with great innovations comes great responsibility. As we ride this wave of progress, we must navigate the challenges of data privacy, security concerns, and the ever-present risk of over-reliance on technology. It’s a balancing act that requires careful consideration and commitment to ethical healthcare practices.

8 Ways technology is changing healthcare

  1. AI in healthcare
  2. Health trackers and wearables
  3. Virtual reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
  4. Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems
  5. Robotics for surgical procedures
  6. 3D printing
  7. Health chatbots and virtual assistants
  8. In silico drug trials

1. AI in healthcare

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in healthcare is experiencing unprecedented growth and is expected to be worth approximately $148.4 billion by 2029. One of the main drivers for this growth is the availability of tremendous healthcare data sets that are set to revolutionise the industry with the right analysis. AI offers solutions to a vast array of issues, from improving patient care and streamlining processes to advancing medical research.

Key applications of AI in healthcare include using AI algorithms to analyse medical images such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, leveraging AI-powered Clinical Decision Support Systems (CDSS) to assess patient data, and running AI-driven chatbots and virtual assistants.

2. Health trackers and wearables

Health trackers and wearables have transformed the healthcare industry by providing individuals with real-time insights into their health and lifestyle habits. Some of the most common types of devices include smartwatches and fitness bands, which monitor physiological parameters such as heart rate, sleep patterns, physical activity, and even stress levels.

In 2023, it was estimated that 219.43 million people used smartwatches worldwide, helping more people take control of their health. The data collected by these devices can be used to provide insight into an individual’s wellbeing, form healthier habits, and be proactive in their management of chronic illnesses.

For healthcare professionals, health trackers facilitate remote patient monitoring, allowing healthcare providers to remotely track patients’ vital signs and adherence to treatment plans. This is particularly beneficial for individuals with chronic diseases, enabling early detection of health deteriorations and timely interventions, thereby reducing hospitalisations and improving overall health outcomes. Wearables equipped with advanced sensors and AI algorithms can assist in early disease detection, monitor patients’ recovery progress after surgeries, and also optimise rehabilitation programmes.

3. Virtual reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are innovative technologies increasingly utilised in the healthcare sector, offering a wide array of applications aimed at enhancing medical education and improving patient care. In fact, the global market for VR and AR in healthcare has reached a value of $2.5 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow steadily at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.8% from 2023 to 2030!

VR and AR are commonly used in medical training and education, providing simulations for medical students and healthcare professionals to practise surgical procedures, medical interventions, and patient interactions in a risk-free setting. For instance, companies like Osso VR offer surgical training modules allowing trainees to practise procedures in a virtual operating room. Similarly, AR applications enable healthcare providers to overlay digital anatomical structures onto a patient’s body, aiding in surgical planning, patient education, and enhancing understanding of complex medical conditions.

4. Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems

Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems are digital versions of patients’ paper charts, containing a comprehensive record of a patient’s medical history, including their diagnoses, medications, treatment plans, immunisation dates, allergies, and more. EHR systems are designed to streamline the storage, retrieval, and sharing of health information among healthcare providers within a single organisation or across multiple healthcare settings. They do so by providing a centralised database of information that is accessible to all healthcare professionals, which is much more efficient and secure than paper records.

On a wider scale, EHR systems generate valuable data that can be analysed to identify trends, track population health metrics, and improve healthcare outcomes at the population level. This can be beneficial on a large scale, supporting public health initiatives and quality improvement efforts. An increasing number of health organisations are adopting EHR systems and the market size of EHRs is forecasted to reach over $47 billion globally by 2027.

5. Robotics for surgical procedures

Robotics for surgical procedures involves the use of advanced robotic systems to assist surgeons in performing intricate and precise surgical interventions. These systems typically consist of robotic arms equipped with surgical instruments, a high-definition camera, and a console where the surgeon controls the robotic arms with hand and foot movements or through computer interfaces. The use of robotics in surgery has evolved significantly over the years and offers several advantages over traditional surgical techniques.

For one, robotics provide greater dexterity and precision, allowing for more accurate manipulation of surgical instruments in tight spaces within the body, leading to improved surgical outcomes and reduced risk of complications. Also, a magnified, 3D view of the surgical site, provides enhanced visualisation compared to traditional laparoscopic or open surgeries, due to high-definition cameras integrated into robotic systems.

Additionally, using robotics enables minimally invasive procedures, where surgeons make small incisions and operate through tiny ports using robotic instruments. This results in less trauma to surrounding tissues, reduced blood loss, shorter hospital stays, and faster recovery times for patients.

6. 3D printing

The use of 3D printing in healthcare, also known as additive manufacturing, has revolutionised various aspects of patient care, medical research, and education. Applications of 3D printing in healthcare are widespread.

One example is in anatomical models. 3D printing enables the creation of accurate anatomical models based on patient-specific imaging data such as CT scans and MRI scans. These models assist surgeons in preoperative planning, allowing them to visualise complex anatomical structures and practise surgical procedures before entering the operating room. This can improve surgical success rates and reduce operating time.

3D printing is making waves in surgical guides and implants as it is used to manufacture patient-specific surgical guides and implants tailored to individual anatomies. Surgical guides help surgeons achieve greater precision during procedures by providing customised templates for cutting bone or placing implants. Patient-specific implants, such as cranial implants or orthopaedic implants, are designed to match the patient’s anatomy perfectly, resulting in better functional and aesthetics.

Similarly, 3D printing is now also being used in the production of prosthetic limbs and orthotic devices and offering customisable, lightweight, and cost-effective solutions. Patients can receive prosthetic limbs that are tailored to their unique anatomical requirements and functional needs, improving comfort and mobility. This even extends into dentistry for fabricating dental prostheses, crowns, bridges, and dental implants.

7. Health chatbots and virtual assistants

Health chatbots and virtual assistants are digital tools powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that interact with users to provide information and assistance related to healthcare and wellness. These technologies leverage natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning algorithms to understand user queries, analyse data, generate relevant responses, and help people.

One of the best aspects of chatbots is their 24/7 availability, which means they provide round-the-clock access to healthcare information and support. This accessibility is particularly beneficial for individuals seeking quick answers to health-related questions or assistance outside of regular healthcare provider hours. These tools actually serve as a valuable source of information and education, offering users accurate and reliable content on a wide range of topics such as medical conditions, treatments, medications, and lifestyle recommendations.

Additional benefits include facilitating appointment scheduling, aiding patients with medication management through reminders and dosage information, as well as conducting initial symptom assessments and triage.

8. In silico drug trials

In silico drug trials, also known as virtual or computational clinical trials, leverage computer simulations, mathematical modelling, and data analytics to predict the safety, efficacy, and pharmacokinetics of potential drug candidates in silico, or in a computer-based environment. These trials aim to complement or replace traditional clinical trials conducted in humans, offering several potential benefits, such as reducing costs and time spent on clinical trials. In fact, computer simulations enable rapid testing of multiple drug candidates and dosing regimens, accelerating the drug development process.

There is also the safety element. Computational models can predict the potential toxicity of drug candidates and identify adverse effects early in the development process. By simulating drug interactions with biological targets and physiological systems, in silico trials help prioritise safe compounds for further testing in preclinical and clinical studies.

Not to mention, in silico pharmacology offers ethical improvements, posing as an ethical alternative to traditional clinical trials, particularly in cases where testing in humans or animals may pose risks or raise ethical concerns.

Mitigating the risks of tech in healthcare

The ever-growing integration of technology in healthcare brings both opportunities, as shown, but also challenges and concerns. While advancements like AI and robotics enhance patient care and accessibility, concerns over data privacy and security loom large. Protecting sensitive health information from cyber threats and ensuring compliance with regulations are paramount.

Another key concern is the growing over-reliance on technology, which could lead to disparities in care and potential disruption in the event of system failures. Balancing innovation with ethical considerations and safeguarding patient trust is crucial for mitigating these risks while harnessing the full potential of tech in healthcare.

What does the future hold for the healthcare industry?

The future of the healthcare industry holds promise and excitement as technological advancements continue to reshape its landscape. The future of healthcare is characterised by increased accessibility, efficiency, and patient-centred care, driven by technological advancements that empower both patients and healthcare providers to achieve better health outcomes. However, challenges such as ethical considerations, regulatory frameworks, and healthcare disparities must be addressed to realise the full potential of these innovations.

To achieve the full potential of these innovations and navigate the complexities, the right technology talent is indispensable. To name a few, skilled professionals with expertise in AI, analytics, cybersecurity, and regulatory compliance are essential for developing, implementing, and maintaining cutting-edge healthcare technologies. However, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration between tech experts and healthcare professionals will be crucial to ensure maximum impact.

Are you looking for the top technology talent to drive your healthcare innovation forward? At FDM, we provide organisations with a sustainable pipeline of skilled and ready talent to work as part of their internal teams and make real change. Get in touch to find out more about our consulting services!