The Future of Health Tech Has Both Challenges and Benefits

Blog / The Future of Health Tech Has Both Challenges and Benefits

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    Nils Widal
    Nils WidalDecember 1, 2021

    Digital Health and Cloud Platforms Advocate and Entrepreneur.

    One of the biggest challenges that face health tech development is one simple question: ‘what if it goes wrong?’

    Whether it’s robots carrying out surgery or an AI diagnosing breast cancer, the assumption that something will break hampers progress. This puts us in a situation where we either have to hedge our bets or go all in. 

    Neither option seems particularly wise when patient survival and recovery are the measures of success.

    Healthcare professionals want to overcome this issue. Whilst there are difficulties implementing technology en masse, there is much to be excited about. 

    New developments can speed up drug development, give more accurate diagnoses and even carry out clinical consultations. The ultimate aim of all health tech innovations is to solve health issues found in the general population. Putting our faith in the technology to do its job allows us to work harder and faster towards that goal.

    Exciting Health Tech Developments

    Technology is allowing innovations in a myriad of healthcare fields. Each day our assumed limitations are pushed by another breakthrough, furthering the health tech and digital health revolutions. Development areas include: nanotechnologies, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and more. The thrill lies in what will evolve next.

    Health Tech Development

    New Training Methods

    Developments in the digital health industry are providing new ways to train healthcare professionals. This is applicable to both training doctors and those that are well-established within their field.

    As research gives rise to new surgeries and treatment methods, doctors must move with the times. At present, trainees shadow doctors that are performing procedures in order to learn their techniques. However, this can be difficult to orchestrate and require a live patient. For more difficult or uncommon surgeries, there aren’t many opportunities to gain real-world experience.

    Developments in VR have removed the necessity of a real patient, and any logistical issues for training. It allows doctors to carry out the surgery in a simulation. Learners can carry out procedures any number of times, before transferring their skills into reality. 

    This results in safer procedures for the patients, but also quicker training for doctors. There is a lack of fully trained doctors across the globe. These developments mean that we could increase the speed at which trainees meet professional requirements. They could be capable of more complex procedures, too.

    Drug Development

    Creating and implementing a new drug is a lengthy process. Not only do they require an immense amount of research and experimentation, but they then need to be tested. There are many compliances to meet before a drug can be put into production for public use.

    Tech developments in this area aim to speed up the time it takes to develop a new drug. Software technologies can do a lot of the necessary biological research, and save costs on man-hours. 

    This means that we can respond to new diseases much quicker. Vaccinations could be developed upon discovery of new viruses. Response time is key to effective treatment in these circumstances. 

    We have been searching for treatments for life-threatening diseases like cancer for decades. Making use of technologies like AI could cover significant ground for researchers. 

    Speed

    Speed of response is key to the treatment of so many diseases. This includes the pace of identification, and how quickly a treatment plan can be created. Identifying a disease too slowly could mean life or death to some patients. 

    To identify a disease, the difficulties lie in gathering information from the patient and carrying out further research. Developments in AI have sped up this process, as they can sift through information much quicker than a healthcare professional.

    It has been proved that AI developments can identify diseases earlier and more accurately. 

    This allows treatment plans to be developed at a much quicker rate. AI has proven capable of helping with this process too. The softwares have access to global health records, to assess case studies on the most effective treatments. A team of doctors simply doesn’t have the time to commit to this level of research. 

    For example, discovering cancer quickly and having the ability to administer treatment much earlier could save a patient's life.

    Improving Healthcare Records

    Current healthcare records are fragmented and outdated. They are typically stored on different code bases depending on the system that your healthcare sector uses. Some are even still paper-based. 

    This is a huge hurdle to overcome in healthcare. Missing records could impact a patient's ability to get treatment. Incorrect records could be detrimental to their health. Doctors struggle to get a full picture of any patient’s history. 

    Advancements in technology development like microservices have offered a more interoperable architecture. Code bases are transferable, and allow integration between systems.

    AI has also shown research capabilities. Softwares can collate all available data in order to fill in gaps where possible. It also means that treatment can be developed based on what may have been successful for a similar patient. This doesn’t necessarily fix the gaps in the records system, but it does enhance what is available.

    A more integrative system would allow professionals to administer better healthcare and more relevant treatments. 

    Technological Challenges

    As with any project development, there are challenges to implementing and managing healthcare innovation. People are particularly distrustful of technology. This is particularly true when people are at their most vulnerable, in healthcare. This is just one hurdle the healthcare sector faces in development.

    Interoperability

    Interoperability is computer systems’ ability to exchange and make use of information. This process is flawed within healthcare systems. 

    Currently, it is difficult to obtain a patients’ full health care records. They are typically stored within old software, and dispersed around various facilities. Sharing data has not been a priority. For population health management, health records need to be obtainable and cumulative. 

    As stated, healthcare technology is outdated. This makes integrating new tech developments difficult. A widespread update in technologies would be required across the sector. This is costly, and hard to monitor. 

    Health Tech Development

    Inconsistency

    Technology advancements, and budget for technology, is inconsistent across the world. For a lot of these new technologies, mass uptake would be required. For example, AI would need access to hoards of healthcare records to learn about diagnoses. 

    Worldwide implementation would require massive investment, and some countries do not have the infrastructure to support this. Additionally, the healthcare system can be averse to change. 

    The uptake of new technologies would require a steep learning curve. When patient care is the priority, this widespread change might not be feasible in the short term. 

    Trust

    In part thanks to media exaggerations and bad movie plots, people are fearful of the future of technology. In this Oxford study on the fear of AI, only 27% of people had a positive view of Artificial Intelligence. 

    One of the biggest challenges to health technology development, then, is the public. The healthcare sector does have to respond to that lack of trust. It may be unrealistic to expect a concerned public to accept mass uptake of health technologies like AI.

    Malpractice claims are an unfortunate part of the health profession. Involving new technologies in patient care could be tricky to legislate. 

    Future Forward

    Whilst the healthcare sector itself may delay progression somewhat, it is likely that technological involvement in healthcare will move forward. The potential far outweighs the challenges.

    Saving lives is the priority. Developments in AI and technologies integrated with human professionals could minimise the impact of diseases like cancer, influenzas and more. That fact cannot be ignored. 

    Looking forward, the public should be excited by the widespread improvements in health for future generations.

    At Vertrical, we help you integrate and scale your healthcare tech to comply with the latest regulations. Get in touch today.

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