The digital revolution has been felt across every industry, and the healthcare sector is no exception. Artificial intelligence, mobile technology and virtual reality are revolutionising patient care, diagnosis and treatment to the extent that healthcare is changing beyond all recognition.
We are heading into a golden age for patients, and there are also a wealth of new opportunities for those contemplating a career in healthcare, whether it is in patient care itself or the all-important hospital support jobs that allow the doctors and nurses to do the best possible job. Let’s find out more.
Mobile health care
We have all seen the fitness trackers and other types of wearable technology that monitor blood pressure, heart rate and so on. Initially, these were seen as toys for fitness freaks, but their applications are becoming deadly serious.
Dr Duncan Banks is an Open University lecturer in biomedical sciences. He has been researching the use of mobile health trackers in patients aged 55 and above, and says they will save lives, while reducing patient care costs by more than 50 percent.
Wearable devices can be remotely monitored by healthcare professionals, who are provided with an early warning at the first sign of any irregularity. But the benefits don’t stop there. They can even have a remote consultation with the patient via video conferencing platforms on a laptop or smartphone.
Virtual reality has recently hit the headlines in the games sector, and this gives a clue as to its potential applications in healthcare. We have all heard the stories of how gamers can become proficient at driving a racing car or flying a fighter jet through the use of simulators. Now, trainee surgeons can hone their skills on virtual patients in cyberspace. VR has also proved highly effective as a form of aversion therapy in helping patients overcome phobias, whether they relate to spiders, heights or even needles.
Leveraging IoT tech
The Internet of Things has shown itself to have a range of applications in homes and businesses. How could this type of connected technology be used in healthcare? Researchers are looking at a variety of sensors that can be implanted beneath the skin, particularly for patients who are managing pre-existing conditions. A perfect example is diabetics. A tiny implant can monitor glucose levels, sending information to the patient’s smartphone and triggering a warning if certain thresholds are reached.
Using AI to aid diagnosis might make some patients feel uncomfortable conceptually, but there is no denying that this is a powerful tool. A doctor might spend half an hour studying half a dozen case histories to look for connections in making a complicated diagnosis. AI can be used to review thousands in a matter of seconds. The result? More accurate diagnoses and more time freed up for doctors to spend treating patients instead of rifling through books.
A brave new world of healthcare
Many of these technologies are still in their infancy. As AI, VR and the IoT continue to evolve, so too will the medical profession. There are exciting times ahead.