A deeper look at five technologies that are currently advancing exponentially and radically reshaping healthcare. In other words, for the long suffering, there is plenty of hope to go around.
3D printing is already making its presence felt in medical device world. Ninety-five percent of all hearing aids are today 3D printed. This tech is also pushing into prosthetics. There are custom-made back braces for scoliosis patients and casts for broken bones (perforated with holes so people can finally scratch through their casts) and, in the latest development, 3D printed facial prosthetics (noses, ears, etc.).
It started with IBM’s Watson. After besting humans on Jeopardy back in 2011, Big Blue sent their thinking machine to medical school. Now loaded up with everything from journal articles to medical textbooks to actual information culled from patient interviews, the supercomputer has remerged as an incredibly robust diagnostic aid that is already being used for everything from training medical students to managing the treatment of lung cancer.
We’ve been hearing about BCIs for a little while now. The tech originated out of the desire to help paraplegics and quadriplegics control computer cursors with only their brains. Of course, these developments will continue apace, bringing far more liberation to the disabled then ever before possible, but the bigger news is in BCIs that can control robotic limbs or even restore function to paralyzed limbs.
The robots are coming, the robots are coming, the robots are, well, here. Whether we’re talking the da Vinci Surgical System—which has performed over 20,000 operations since its 2000 debut—or newer developments like the nanobots swimming through our bloodstream and scraping plaque from our arteries, robots are already deep into the healthcare space.
In medicine, one of the major promises of technology is patient empowerment—especially when it comes to diagnostics. Suddenly, patients no longer have to go to the doctor’s office or hospital. Instead, in the comfort of your home, a system called the Tricorder will analyze data, diagnose the problem, and send that information to a doctor who, quite possibly, can treat you remotely. In the developed world, where doctors make diagnostic errors 10 percent of the time, this will make a significant difference in quality-of-care and significantly reduce the roughly $55 billion spent annually on the malpractice system) In the developing world, this will make healthcare far more accessible.