The technological advancement of recent decades has shifted and reshaped many aspects of our lives. The healthcare industry is not an exception to these processes bringing about both new opportunities and new challenges. Let us take a closer look at what is happening now and what the future holds.
Bridging the gaps
The healthcare industry is rapidly adopting such innovations as virtual and augmented reality to treat mental conditions, 3D printing to produce custom implants and prosthetic devices, haptic holograms to detect tumors, etc. Medical equipment is becoming more sophisticated and precise, its imaging and calculating capacities grow, and some of them can be manipulated remotely. As a result, we are already witnessing growth in treatment success rates and in longevity expectations.
Yet, the key tendency brought by technological advancement into healthcare is a focus shift from treatment of already existing conditions towards prediction and prevention of them due to the explosion in the availability of patient data. There has been a significant improvement in connectivity thanks to the growing popularity of bio-sensing wearable devices, healthcare applications, and the increase in internet coverage and speed. Healthcare professionals now have access to big data that is being constantly generated by and collected from individual users in real time. It allows for all sorts of statistical analysis and modeling, research, and training. Let us not forget about drastic improvements in the automation of the documentation flow and operations in general.
More people can receive medical services while maintaining their independence and mobility.
The possibility of virtual communication significantly decreases travel and waiting times for doctors and patients and provide them with more one-on-one interaction opportunities. Now more people can receive medical services while maintaining their independence and mobility. In addition, medical and lifestyle mobile applications prompt systematic tracking of one’s behavior and help to adhere to prescribed routines and healthier habits among users, improving treatment outcomes and general state of health.
Facing the challenges
Despite many positive changes that technology brought to the healthcare industry, it has also raised several issues. In order to empower people with all the possibilities mentioned above, we will have to accept the fact that technologies will penetrate and monitor our private lives, and that we might have to disclose certain types of personal data in exchange for better healthcare services. How much, if any, and what kind of disclosed data should be a required minimum to ensure the high quality of healthcare services? In the absence of agreed standards and medical guidelines for data collection, handling, and protection, it is unclear how these processes will be organized and matched in different markets and who will bear liabilities.
In this regard, another issue has to do with drawing a line between a lifestyle and a medical application, and how should we handle the data it generates. As a result, it is also unclear what will happen to medical confidentiality and privacy in general, and can these notions even exist within new structures and networks. Will such disclosure influence the costs of other services, namely health insurance? Could new technologies possibly limit our lifestyle options or make some of them exclusively available to social groups with a certain income level?
Further transformation of the healthcare industry will largely depend on how we tackle these issues in order to maximize the benefits and minimize the potential downsides of using them.