These days, conversations about healthcare often circle around cost and efficiency. Health tech, the booming industry that encompasses everything from the powerful CT scanners in your local hospital to the EKG’s in your Apple Watch, is changing that paradigm.
It’s bringing more effective care at lower costs to a greater number of people, through the disruptive power of some of the world’s most innovative tech companies.
Health tech describes any digital healthcare technology, from wearable devices like FitBits to the complex databases that store their data. It’s an industry that’s taking on the challenge of saving more lives more efficiently, by leveraging the millions of sensor data at our disposal.
It brings information from the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) to the fingertips of the doctors, surgeons, first responders, and even the dispatchers working around the clock to administer healthcare. According to a report by Deloitte, the IoMT is estimated to be worth $158.1 billion by 2022.
Health tech, and by extension the IoMT devices that comprise it, is cutting response times and improving patient outcomes. These innovations are reducing costs and man hours while improving the quality of care that patients receive, providing a vital service to a healthcare industry in need of change. Let’s explore six health tech innovations that are leading the charge.
Apple recently released their own proprietary, physician approved EKG app for Apple Watches. FitBit is pursuing similar opportunities, as is Samsung. These portable EKGs are bringing cardiovascular insights to people everyday.
For the average person with a healthy heart, it’s an additional layer of health data. But for someone with atrial fibrillation, a condition which affects over 2.5 million Americans annually, it’s an early detection system that can be the difference between life and death.
These apps send warning signs to wearers when irregular heart rates are detected, which can be shared with their physicians if complications persist. Through solutions like RapidSOS, this data can be forwarded to doctors or a hospital immediately upon detection, with user permission of course.
Smart pills are swallowable biometric scanners that can perform a variety of medical functions internally, from imaging and scanning to drug delivery. They’re nonpermanent ingestible sensors, so unlike a pacemaker, they pass through your system when the job is done.
These devices can give doctors and researchers unprecedented information about a patient, like internal body temperature, local pH, and more. They can also detect warning signs for ulcers, tumors, and bleeding along the GI tract, and are more cost effective and often less invasive than many of the alternatives. Eventually, smart pills will be able to administer drugs in specific areas based on certain vital preconditions.
Smart pills depend on the advancement of miniaturized wireless communications, with companies like Google, Medimetrics, and Proteus Digital Health paving the way.
Telemedicine, the practice of remotely diagnosing medical conditions via telephone (or another form of communication), is a relatively new field of medicine that’s changing the way we think of primary care. Although the concept isn’t new, with things like teleradiology dating back to the 1950s, the prevalence of the internet has tremendously expanded the capacity of healthcare professionals to remotely diagnosis and assess their patients.
Through programs like Zoom, Skype, or EasyMeet, Doctors can schedule remote visits with patients in rural or underserved areas, providing greater access to vital healthcare services.
Further, in the event of an emergency, remote medical conferencing can help rapidly diagnose and triage patients when resources and manpower are scarce. In addition, by equipping patients with IoMT sensors, doctors can keep track of their patient’s vitals from afar, to make their remote appointments even more impactful.
Wearables are good for more than step tracking. Biometric sensors are being woven into everything from smart clothing to RFID chips in the shoulder pads of NFL players. These high tech garments can keep track of your heart rate, emotional state, fitness goals, sleep patterns, and more.
These sensors aren’t just gimmicks for the average consumer looking to optimize their lives – they collect valuable information that can be sent to physicians or first responders to assist in diagnosis and recovery. All of this data can be used by physicians to monitor patients with known health issues or manage and stay on top of treatment plans.
Artificial intelligence has worldwide implications, spanning just about every industry. In the case of medicine, a powerful AI can synthesize hundreds of years of medical data and discovery, compare it to the vitals of a patient, and form a diagnosis. Much like the intuition of an experienced doctor, AI can filter through millions of data in mere seconds, and is even considered to be “on par with human experts when it comes to making medical diagnoses based on images.”
Medical AIs use deep learning algorithms, a form of machine learning that relies on massive, unsupervised neural networks. These neural networks test, re-test, and “learn” outcomes based on huge inputs of data, like the sequenced human genome or the intracellular signals of a specific type of cancer.
These programs, led by startups like Lunit, are providing physicians with revolutionary new ways to treat diseases.
IoMT devices, like the ones we listed above, are making more data available to physicians and first responders than ever before. The modern Smart Hospital collects data from a multitude of sources to deliver effective and personalized care. The challenge, however, is delivering the data to them efficiently and at scale.
Companies like RapidSOS help bridge this gap by providing API integrations for IoT companies to connect them to 9-1-1, hospitals, and other relevant parties. Rather than relying on a patient to export their sensor data, or even waiting for a remote consultation to discuss findings, data links can send alerts to hospitals immediately upon a trigger. When a person’s wearable EKG detects an arrhythmia, these data links can provide users an option to call for help, sending valuable information along with it.
The IoMT is creating a patient-driven healthcare ecosystem, wherein diagnoses and treatments are tailored to an individual’s needs based on high quality sensor data. From the moment an episode occurs, IoMT sensors collect the data healthcare professionals need to do their jobs better than ever before. Healthcare professionals will no longer have to rely on a patient’s description of events to determine their course of action – their bodies can speak for them.
The best part is, all of this is happening today, and will improve as time goes on.