A look at the path travelled and the long road ahead

The global pandemic COVID – 19 has shaken the world at its core, throwing several people under major health crises. Now more than ever, technology has to step in to maintain a database on the impact of COVID – 19 in various ways including health, lifestyle, livelihood, etc. Technology has proven to be an asset in the healthcare field for several years now, although it is not growing as fast as the necessities demand. This is owing to the complicated situations in different regions, societies, people and extraordinary conditions like war.

The power of data collection and analysis is helping the world currently to battle through the pandemic. This has gone as far as scientists working hard to develop a successful vaccine by next year, while it would have taken almost a decade a few years ago. Beyond this, devices like mobiles and computers have become staples in regular health monitoring and maintaining records.

Smart watches that can identify a heart attack, AI to detect cancer at an early stage, using robots in the operation theatres, customized medication based on an individual’s genetic and biological make up, editing genes to fix defects, are just some of the examples of technological advances in the past few years.

Here are some of the top technological breakthroughs in healthcare.

1. Detecting depression with smartphones

World Mental Health Day is observed on the 10th of October every year. With abundant facilities available for physical healthcare, mental health is still a taboo around the world. Depression affects almost 300 million people all over the world every year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people ages 15-29.

A company in California, Mindstrong, has enabled smart phones to detect depression by how people tap and scroll through their phones. It was taken a step further by a chatbot called Woebot, which used AI to help in treating depression. The trials have been successful and the future seems bright.

2. Fixing doctor appointments to detecting cancer – everything AI

Asking Alexa to play good music after a long day has become second nature to many people. How comfortable are we to discuss personal health with AI in a similar way? In May 2018, Google CEO Sundar Pichai delivered a popular presentation on how AI will call and fix doctor appointments, and in 2019 spoke about Google’s AI detecting cardiovascular problems.

These services are now offered by several other companies like Watson Health by IBM, Babylon Health, and much more.

AI has been used to detect cancer cells at an early stage, making it possible to cure them. Cancer like Melanoma or skin cancer has proven difficult to be diagnosed by sight. AI has achieved 95% detection rate, while trained doctors could achieve only 87%.

3. Blockchain in healthcare

Information in healthcare system has been scattered across several platforms, often leading to miscommunication or lack of accessibility to patients or doctors. For instance, Boston alone has 26 different platforms for various critical healthcare information in different languages.

Blockchain decentralizes it, and ensures transparency and autonomy of information to the patients. Micropayments like rewards for following proper and regular healthcare has been on the rise as well.

Although the government has to permit for a complete change from EMR, blockchain seems to be the only way to address the current discrepancies. Although there are several myths around blockchain, owners deserve control of their own information, especially in a sensitive industry like healthcare.

4. Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)

IoMT or Healthcare IoT involves connecting software appliances and medical infrastructure and creating a network among all medical facilities and IT systems. IoMT reduces hospital visits and eases the job of medical professionals by maintaining the network between them and the patients.

The current market includes more of wearables and monitors on the body at home and hospital settings. As the patients move, their real-time locations are updated and their activities are recorded accordingly.

A simple example of IoMT is a fitness wrist band counting the number of steps connected to the smartphone, and this data can be shared with the medical expert, who can direct health advice with the collected data and send across a report to the patient. This network can also loop in a close friend or family member upon consent, if needed. IoMT increases the chances of precision in treatment.

5. Editing defective genes

Genetic diseases are more than 10,000 in number. Some genetic conditions that used to be considered incurable can be cured by mutating the genes and stopping them from being transferred to the next generation. This eliminates the possibility of the disease down the line.

Sickle cell anemia was the disease which created a breakthrough in gene alteration. In this, a genetic mutation inside RBC prevents blood circulation, that may even lead to stroke or death. The patient’s stem cells are taken and the defective genes are removed in the laboratory and presented back in their body.

The future looks bright for technology in healthcare. Chatbot becoming the first line of healthcare, sensors. AR/VR technology, Quantum computing in decision making, 5G technology allowing faster downloads and accommodating more data are some of the future applications waiting to dominate the market. Telesurgery is another area waiting to see a major breakthrough.

During COVID – 19, video consultations with doctors have become commonplace, showing how necessity is addressed by technology during crisis. Several start-ups are stepping in to join the bandwagon and elevate healthcare tech. The disadvantage lies in the complications dictated by the size of the industry. To bring a change in a global industry involving several stakeholders takes time and effort. As the industry is encountering new changes and complications with passing time, change is needed and the burden has to be lessened. What better than technology to assist the process?

Rootquotient is committed to contributing to this important and sensitive cause, especially during a crisis. We have served several healthcare clients during the pandemic and they continue to seek our services further. Contact us and let us know how we can help you.