Do you remember the days of reactive healthcare? In simpler times, we waited until we experienced a series of symptoms and then booked an appointment with our doctor who would attempt to diagnose our illness. However, the rise of fitness trackers, wearables and education mean we are now much more proactive when it comes to looking after our health.
It is relatively easy to check every calorie we consume and every step that we take each day by using the smartphone in our pocket. There is also a movement called the Quantified Self (QS) who are seeking higher knowledge through self-tracking of their heart rate, respiration, sleep patterns, blood pressure, exercise, diet and much more.
However, this is just the beginning of a technological revolution as we head towards Web 3.0. Let’s explore how these emerging technologies could transform our wellbeing and bring greater efficiencies to the world of healthcare.
Wearables and IoT
Anyone that has sat in a corporate meeting would have noticed the increasing number of smartwatches and fitness trackers strapped to wrists of the attendees. Even if you missed this trend, you probably would have heard stories from people on a mission to reach their elusive goal of 10,000 steps a day.
However, if we were to zoom out from the early adopters, it’s easy to see the potential that these small trackers can offer. What if Doctors provided devices to high-risk patients and encourage them to monitor their activity during their daily routines? If medical professionals had access to this real-time data and advised their patients accordingly, they could prevent further complications and save lives.
Fitness trackers and wearables are capable of recording much more essential data than just steps. For example, the latest Apple Watch is about to become the first ECG-capable device cleared by the FDA that users will be able to purchase without the need for a prescription. But, why is this such a big deal?
The reality is that most heart problems do not occur when inside a Doctors waiting room. Imagine having a watch strapped to your wrist that is continually checking for any patterns of irregularity with your heart and alerting you if needed. Equally the same device can track sleep patterns, and home blood pressure monitors that connect to smartphones are also easy to get hold of too.
IoT is much more than just another buzzword. Those that can look beyond the shiny new gadgets can quickly see that wearable tech can act as a health monitor that has the potential to save lives.
AI and Machine Learning
Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not the technology that will transform the medical industry; it’s data. The more we capture and record on a global scale, the easier it becomes to learn from it. Until now, the idea of small trackers creating a deluge of personal health data would have raised another unwelcome challenge to time-strapped medical professionals.
Thankfully, machines can process and learn from vast amounts of data faster than even the smartest of humans. If sophisticated computer systems are capable of collecting, evaluating and understanding complex healthcare data patterns, it would undoubtedly become an essential tool for health care professionals.
A combination of machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive computing are just a few Web 3.0 technologies that have transformative qualities for the medical profession. The data from our fitness trackers can then begin to create valuable insights that enable Doctors to make an informed decision based on learning from hard data.
The scary headlines around AI, automation, and robots replacing the role of a doctor could not be further from the truth. The future involves professionals leveraging new insights from patient data to improve human decision making.
It has been impossible to escape the hype that surrounds blockchain technology this year. Most people will associate a decentralized and secure digital ledger with the world of business and fintech. But, this same technology is about to have a significant impact on the healthcare industry too.
Once again, it is data management that has been holding the medical profession back for many years. Fragmented data is of little or no use to anyone. By removing essential information from individual systems, patient data will become accessible to the right people and providers in a step towards greater efficiency.
When all parties have access to the same information, it becomes much easier to co-manage diagnoses and treatments. Another problem that is seldom talked about is the issue with counterfeit drugs made possible by a deeply flawed and dated supply chain.
New solutions such as Ambrosus are combining both blockchain and IoT to assure data integrity for products. By creating a secure and frictionless dialogue between sensors, distributed ledgers, and databases it could also help prevent the hundreds of thousands that die due to counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
Technology has already had a dramatic impact on the world of business and almost every aspect of our lifestyle. But, it’s now time to think bigger and begin to solve real problems in the name of progress. Our inability to process and learn from vast quantities has prevented us from moving forward. However, Web 3.0 technologies are already beginning to open up a whole new era of possibilities.
We are entering a new age of proactive healthcare that enables us to listen and learn from our own personal data. But, healthcare technology will never replace a medical professional, it’s more about providing them with a new set of tools that will enable them to make informed decisions based on real-time factual data.
For these reasons alone, we will see greater efficiencies in healthcare and more importantly save hundreds of thousands of lives.