A convergence of artificial intelligence (AI), cloud-technology, machine learning and connected devices, is changing healthcare. Some of the world’s largest tech giants, including Apple, Samsung, and Amazon — all leaders in consumer products and services — are taking big leaps and investing serious money in the healthcare sector. In only a few short years the concept of the smart hospital will become a reality.
Big tech disrupting healthcare?
A Samsung division, Samsung Bioepis Co, are busy making a low-cost version of Roche Holding AG’s eye drug, Lucentis. At the same time, Apple is taking the iPhone beyond the collection of wellness and bio-health data. Apple is talking to hospitals, drug companies, and sitting in on IT procurement meetings across the world to make the iPhone the central repository for every kind of health data imaginable. From clinical trial studies to allergy information, Apple wants everything.
Amazon, with a global harmonized supply chain and distribution system unlike the world, has ever seen, is poised to disrupt the healthcare sector. Medical suppliers are anticipating — and you could say fearing the “Amazon effect;” a reduction in profit margins and unhealthy disruption in the flow of goods and service delivery.
Forbes contributor David Shaywitz speculates that between them, Google, Amazon, Apple, and the other tech giants, we are entering a new era of “big pharma.” We already share so much with tech companies, why not our real-time health data and prescriptions?
The question is: as consumers, is this what we need? Will the healthcare sector and hospitals benefit from the impact and influence of consumer tech giants? Can they actively improve healthcare delivery and the treatment of patients? In other words: What would treatment look like in a smart hospital of the not so distant future?
Smart Hospitals: Boldly taking healthcare forward.
As Western populations age and lifestyle choices impact the sort of care we need, healthcare as a percentage of national GDP is getting out of control. It is a challenge for which governments across the world are struggling.
In 2015, healthcare cost the world $7.1 trillion. In 2020, it’s estimated that healthcare will cost $8.7 trillion, according to Deloitte.
To ensure healthcare remains affordable it needs to rethink how that healthcare is delivered to the patients. New thought needs to be put into how treatment is provided on an individual basis and how medical providers use the vast amounts of patient data that may be able to reduce the need for extended medical care.
Improvement in the processes of care during recovery after procedures and during after-care of appointments will need to be addressed to reduce costs.
Here are four ways the technology we already have can transform patient care, treatment and drug development.
When a doctor has seen a patient, it would be invaluable if they could be sure that treatments and lifestyle choices are being followed. Say, for example, a patient has been told they need to walk an hour a day to lose weight. Without the data, it’s impossible to know if that lifestyle change has been made and the suggestions of the physician adhered to or followed.
Yet, we already have countless apps and connected devices that collect information about our movements. With the ability to monitor everything from heart rate to the number of steps, blood pressure, and other vital signs, data healthcare providers can make more informed choices about treatment and aftercare provisions. Using this information in hospitals would give patients insights into their own treatments that could make a real difference.
2. Drug development.
We have mapped much of the human genome. Since that project started, we have the genetic codes for over 1,800 diseases, and there are over 2,000 genetic tests for a wide variety of human conditions. We know more about our own genetic code than ever before in human history.
Genomics is already making serious inroads into drug development. Initially, it is having a significant impact on the field of oncology. When pharma companies take a genomic approach to the development of drugs, it can reduce the time and therefore the cost during the research and development phase.
If we then combine the trial phases with bio-telemetry data from trial patients, doctors and medical providers can gain a much clearer insight into how a new drug behaves and interacts with the disease it is trying to cure. We should anticipate big data and a gene-based approach to feature heavily in how drugs are developed in years to come.
3. Primary care.
Doctors everywhere are overworked and overwhelmed.
To reduce the workload on doctors, new forms of primary care are being trialed and in some cases, implemented, across the world. Instead of having every patient visit a doctor for a diagnosis, some minor illnesses are being diagnosed using the web and app-based self-serve tools. In some cases, healthcare providers are allowing patients to receive a diagnosis and even a prescription through a “virtual” consultation.
Talk with your doctor on a video call. If your symptoms aren’t severe and they don’t need to make a physical diagnosis, you can pick up a prescription or have one sent via email or SMS.
Virtual delivery of some primary care consultations can reduce workloads on doctors and will make seeing a doctor easier for patients. Savings of time and money for both the healthcare providers and patients will occur because the patient won’t have to travel to see a doctor — when they can video chat with them instead.
4. Virtual rehabilitation.
Physical rehabilitation is an integral part of the treatment process in some areas of medicine, such as sports injury and orthopedic care — even in much of post-surgery care.
Using apps that monitor bio-data, relay this information to doctors, where they can virtually walk patients through various forms of after-care treatments, a virtual assisted recovery is achievable.
Doctors with access to the real-time data can modify treatments as needed, and outcome data can be collected to support the payment and claims process through the insurance system.
There is no doubt that healthcare is changing. Between innovation that the health industry is known for, and continually creating new drugs — better ways to treat illnesses are in the making. Add to the mix of physician innovation and pharma creations; we can look forward to a healthier future. As the tech industry comes on board, increasing the pace of change in healthcare, the pace of change will become even more relentless.
In the next ten years, how we look after ourselves and the information healthcare providers have about our lifestyle will change. Dietary choices — and the ways we can treat diseases and health problems won’t be obscure anymore.
Inside and outside of hospitals and clinics — we will all have to undergo an enormous transformation.
As patients, we can make more informed decisions, and doctors will have access to the sort of data that can make a big difference to the treatments they recommend, prescribe, and monitor. Making all of this information and data possible are software companies, wearables, big data and tech giants — paving the way forward.