William Blake, an English poet, painter, and printmaker, way back in 1803, said: “What is now proved was once only imagined.”. The quote stays fit in today’s highly innovative and technologically sophisticated society. Innovation has brought many life-saving products and services that have significantly improved the healthcare system. Innovation has enabled us to solve many complex lifesaving problems such as Organ transplantation, Assisted reproductive technology, Neurosurgery, and Gene therapy which once were only mere imaginations. 

As per the stats presented by the WHO, ” the global average life expectancy increased by 5.5 years between 2000 and 2016, the fastest increase since the 1960s“.

Each day, a novel innovation is traversing the market and research in healthcare is progressing exponentially, changing the dynamics of the healthcare market landscape, taking it to new heights. One such advancement is the digitization of how healthcare is maneuvered. In the horizon in the healthcare sector E-health is bound to improve the quality of human lives. E-health has other sub-parts including:  

Telehealth

Telehealth – a concept revolving around the usage of telecommunication and electronic devices for the procurement of healthcare services. Telehealth-based services include patient and professional health-related education & promotion, diagnosis, clinical health care, public health functions, training and health administration. Telehealth has several advantages over traditional healthcare systems as it not only saves travel time that a person requires but also reduces the expenses. Moreover, Telehealth is also helpful in preventing some complicated lifestyle-related conditions and adds to the efficiency of healthcare delivery. 

Videoconferencing, streaming media, and store-and-forward imaging are some of the widely used applications of telehealth.

Telemedicine

Telemedicine is a subpart of telehealth. Telemedicine mainly focuses on providing remote clinical services. It has enabled doctors to diagnose, evaluate and treat patients using Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant video-conferencing tools over remote locations.

Wearable biosensors

Wearable biosensors include contact lenses, watches, bandages, glasses, clothing, belts, and rings. These are portable devices easily attached to the body parts hence are convenient to use. These devices provide real-time data of heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure, thus helping in tracking and monitoring cardiovascular disease and infectious disease.

The tremendous growth in wearable biosensors has been observed during the last few years due to high demand among working professionals and younger generations.

AI in Healthcare

Artificial Intelligence (AI) uses complex algorithms and software to diagnose and treat diseases. Based on the analysis of complex medical data, AI uses the information of patients – historical analysis, processes it and provides a well-defined output to the end-user. It has the ability to recognize the pattern of disease(s) and calculate the probability of conditions that might affect the user with the logic of its own. Today’s AI-based system is powerful enough to detect and analyze large and complex sets of data and can make predictions that are much more accurate than doctors can provide. Some of the prominent applications of AI are drug development, personalized medicine, patient monitoring, and diagnosis, and treatment protocol development, etc. In the upcoming years, AI has endless opportunities to leverage that will be helpful in providing more precise, efficient, and impactful decisions to healthcare professionals.

Social media

Social media over the past few years has emerged as an essential tool to bridge the gap between governments, healthcare professionals and the general population. It has enhanced the professional network among the health agencies, medical professionals, students, researchers, colleagues, patients, governments and the other stakeholders. It is widely used to share information, experience, stories, and promote new products & services. 

Some other applications of social media include dispersing healthcare news and policies among the general through active two-way engagement, to debate healthcare policy and practices on critical issues, taking feedback, and monitoring & tracking important events and epidemics that may impact the society.

One of the recent examples of leverage of social media is the tracking of coronavirus in real-time. Public health organizations like WHO, FDA, European Medicines Agency (EMA), country-specific health organizations and other healthcare professionals are tracing its spread using ultra-fast networks from different geographies around the world. This has enabled them to provide regular guidelines and contain further spread in their authoritative regions.

Point-of-care testing 

Point-of-care testing, also known as bedside testing, are medical diagnostic testing at or near the point of care.

The POCT devices have been in practical use since the last 40 years, but its market size has observed a significant growth during the past one and a half decade only. POCT devices include urine strips testing, pregnancy testing, infectious disease testing, rapid cardiac markers diagnostics, pulse oximetry, cholesterol screening, hemoglobin diagnostics, blood glucose testing, blood gas, electrolytes analysis and many more.

Point-of-care testing has clear advantages over traditional test systems. POCT is user-friendly, affordable, specific that provides enhanced diagnosis, monitoring, and management of disease, which results in better and quicker medical decisions. They save time for both patients and doctors, increase operational efficiency, reduce patient clinic visits and hospital bed requirements.  

The Existing and Emerging Technologies for Point-of-Care Testing are expected to play a vital role in improving the healthcare system of both developed and developing countries.

3D printing

3D printing generates a physical model from digital information. Due to its enormous potential in the Healthcare industry, companies are adopting 3D printing technology at a much faster pace. 

3D printing today is in use in manufacturing Customize surgical tools and prostheses, enhancing medical education, tissue construction, Customizing synthetic organs, personalized pre-surgical or preoperative planning and pharmaceutical industries. 

Lower cost, high customization, and easy manufacturing are some of the factors that will make 3D printing successful in upcoming years. 

Augmented Reality 

Augmented Reality is the latest technology making its way into the healthcare domains. AR has enormous potential in healthcare. AR can enhance the doctor’s ability to diagnose, treat, and perform complicated surgery or operation on their patients more precisely. Some of the most important applications of AR in the healthcare domain are education, vein visualization, surgical visualization and many more. AR provides precise anatomy and body functioning information to the healthcare professional through interactive three-dimensional representation.

Since AR in healthcare is in its initial stage, it is expected that in the future, it will bring significant learning opportunities to both healthcare professionals and patients. 

Drone-delivered medical supplies system, Internet of Things (IoT), stem-cell cure for diabetes, Precision medicine, Regenerative medicine, a more diverse and accurate global biobank are some of the innovations and applications which are still in their infancy and initial research phase, if successfully capitalized, are expected to transform the overall outlook of the healthcare industry.

Innovation has improved the lives of human beings to a much larger extent than but still, there are many challenges that are needed to overcome in order to provide universal healthcare. Heart disease, cybersecurity, rising healthcare costs, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, high prices of pharmaceutical products, growing population, poverty, training & education, and healthcare regulatory issues are some of the challenges which are hampering the healthcare innovation progress. The future is unpredictable. However, the rate at which the healthcare innovations are pacing up today, without a doubt, they would help overcome the existing challenges in the coming decades. Soon enough, a remarkable shift from today’s product-based innovation to value-based care would be witnessed, in the coming years, aimed at achieving affordable healthcare, better patient experience, enhanced healthcare outcomes, improved staff experience, and so on. Overall, a long journey of human development through innovation has been covered, but still, a lot remains to be achieved.