In the ever-changing world of medicine, new technology can make a dramatic impact on the healthcare landscape, both in practice and in business. With that in mind, here are five areas of technology that are likely to have an increasing impact in the field.
For starters, 3D printing has already made a big splash in the healthcare, with large numbers of hearing aids, dental brace, and even prosthetic limbs already being produced in this fashion. 3D printed organs are likely to be the next big step in the field, with scientists already using bioprinted liver tissue in the lab. Hollow, vascular organs are already available. Once complex 3D printed organs become viable, patients will spend less time waiting for transplants and not have to worry as much about rejection.
As seen in IBM’s Watson, artificial intelligence also has numerous medical applications. AI allows computers to access and process data from medical journal articles, textbooks, and patient interviews. This information could then be used to create diagnostic tools. The supercomputers of the future could also analyse biometric, environmental, and lifestyle data from an individual to create a more personalized approach to healthcare.
Coming out of studies of paraplegics and quadriplegics, brain-computer interfaces were originally developed to allow a patients to move a computer mouse through signals from the brain. This application has since been extended to allow disabled individuals to control robotic prosthetics, and even return some function to paralyzed limbs. Now, scientists are looking at ways this technology can be applied to other neurological functions, helping patients with concentration problems, chronic pain, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Robotic surgery has been a reality since the early 2000s. But there are many more robotic applications to medicine coming down the pipe. Service robots will soon enter the market that will be able to perform basic tasks in hospital care. Robotic exoskeletons are being developed to helps paraplegics walk independently. And eventually we may have tiny robots that can clean arterial plaques from your blood vessels.
Lastly, point-of-care diagnostics, devices that are being compared to the fictional medical tricorders of Star Trek fame, are non-invasive tools that potentially enable a patient to get their own diagnosis at home. The device would then send information to a medical professional, allowing for remote treatment. This emerging technology could cut healthcare costs and reduce diagnostic errors.