The medical industry is perhaps the least forgiving when it comes to the adoption of new technologies. The healthcare arena rarely affords second chances, with regulators exceptionally weary of any new advancement till it has been tried, tested and approved by a governing body.
That being said, the advantages of digital innovation in the healthtech world are proving to be invaluable, with different government bodies, hospitals and private enterprises jumping on the bandwagon to be part of the next generation of medical care. We take a look and visit three key areas that the industry is focusing on to advance its journey forward:
Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the Diagnosis of Illnesses
AI basically uses complex algorithms and software advancements to mirror human cognition when it comes to analysing medical data. This information extracted from this process is then used to formulate an accurate diagnosis of the patient’s condition, followed by an appropriate treatment method. One of the main objectives that this area of the industry aims to achieve is to deliberately and sensibly identify areas where automation can free up time and effort on the part of medical practitioners so that they can focus on more relevant tasks at hand.
There is also the (already proven) fact that, in some cases, AI is able to diagnose certain illnesses more efficiently than doctors. Dr. Helen Kim, General Manager of our very own member C&R Healthcare Global(C&R) shared with us about one of her incubates imediSync, Inc. helping to predict and classify various neuropsychiatric related disorders such as dementia, ADHD, autism, depression and traumatic brain injury. Mild cognitive impairment (a major precursor to dementia) for example, is diagnosed and evaluated at an early stage using a machine-learning algorithm. These advancements far surpass current testing methods that involve cognitive assessments, blood tests and brain scans that are often only administered after a patient shows signs of mental impairment.
AI technology is also already showing positive progress in the early detection of other illnesses to prevent cases of dementia, stroke and cancer so that preventive measures can be taken at an early stage. Innovations in this area will extend life expectancies and reduce healthcare costs considerably for government institutions.
With major giants like Apple and Samsung facilitating everyday accessibility to the average consumer, wearable devices are becoming increasingly commonplace in the form of anything from fitness watches to wristbands that track a user’s vitals while on the go. Aside from taking one’s pulse, tracking number of daily steps taken and calculating blood-oxygen levels, the industry has already taken several steps forward – with such devices promising to do so much more in the foreseeable future.
The next five to ten years should see innovation introduce either tiny micro needles or catheter-based impedance sensors to monitor specific blood levels. The same bands will eventually leverage microfluidic sensor platforms that both takes blood samples, and instantly analyses them on the go. Gone will be the days of lab tests and bulky equipment to carry out these seemingly menial yet essential tasks.
Other examples of how these gadgets promise to revolutionise the sector is when it comes to remote patient monitoring as well as in the adherence to medication dosages. While the former will transcend geographical limitations (patients that are not able to visit doctors regularly), the latter will especially assist old-age patients who forget to take medications on time and even inform medical professionals if they fail to adhere to medications. Benefits of healthtech wearables will stretch across varying industries and are not limited to those that have ailments – those in the sports industry for example will be able to track athlete’s performance levels to maximise their productivity.
Consumer Data Security and Privacy Essential for Industry to Advance
This is an area that has been a topic of quite a lot of controversy over the span of the last few years, with even Singapore not being immune to certain breaches over the span of this time. Although advancements in the field will not affect innovation directly, it is an extremely important factor if the industry is going to succeed.
As the healthtech world evolves rapidly, data security measures will have to keep abreast with these advancements – there is possibly no other industry that requires as much sensitivity when it comes to handling of consumer records. This will entail more and more national focus and organisation around security standards to ensure safe data access and usage. Policies will also be further strengthened to ensure that information is not handed over to third parties for marketing purposes.
One can assume that the advent of Blockchain technology and its decentralised nature will make the organisation of electronic medical records more efficient as well as secure. This is especially true in the use of private or hybrid blockchains, in which all of the nodes are located within a secure network. AI is another area that will help cyber security moving forward. Machine learning applications can help prevent security breaches by identifying previously unknown malware signatures. Using historical data, these apps learn to recognise malware patterns even when the destructive program is not previously known.
From an innovation perspective, the health industry will see companies such as Ionic create reliable systems for decrypting information where clients (such as hospitals) retain control of who can decrypt data, under what circumstances, and what they can do with it. Someone could steal the database from a corporate network, but the company would be able to set the data to only decrypt within the database environment and nowhere else.
The next several weeks will see us delve deeper into each of the three areas mentioned above, highlighting the details of how they are shaping the future of the industry. We will also be speaking with thought leaders and some of our very own members that are moving the healthtech industry forward.