Tech Meets Health

When brainstorming  what to write about, I began to think about what ways technology could possibly best benefit humanity. I believe for many people, including myself, companies relating to shopping and social media automatically come to mind such as Amazon, Twitter, Instagram. Next, companies relating to lifestyle come to mind such as Spotify and Airbnb. The last thing that normally pops in my mind is technology relating to health care, when ironically, this is the technology that could arguably be most important. Technology based health-care companies could be saving our lives so that we can in fact use these other technologies such as Amazon and Google and Apple. In a way, all of these technologies rely on our health. Not to be morbid, but I mean we must in fact be alive and well in order to use their goods and services. You can’t travel and therefore utilize Airbnb if you are not healthy. You will not want to order various items on Amazon if you can’t get out and use them. You can’t subscribe to Spotify and enjoy the music if you can’t hear the music. These tech companies in fact rely on our senses being healthy and in working order because if not, there is no need or even ability to utilize their goods and services. Health care can be a major driving force in the technology world because of its universal impact and need.

Technology in healthcare is a topic not often discussed. However, it has the ability to impact the widest range of people, arguably, than any other technology sector. This is simply because everyone requires some kind of health medications or services in their lifetime. For these reasons, along with the increasing awareness to tech companies in general, I believe tech related health care is on the rise, and Silicon Valley can be a part of it.

Simply by looking at this graph, you can see the dramatic increase of investing in tech health start-ups just in the past years. From 2013 to 2017, it has nearly doubled!

Healthcare venture chart

From techcrunch.com

Seemingly endless possibilities

I found an extremely interesting article on this topic of health care intersecting with technology and the resulting possibilities. Here is a highlight of the points that stood out to me.

(Click here for ReferralMD’s full article)

Firstly, the possible impact of VR on med school and healthcare as a whole is fascinating. The article brings up the how augmented reality can revolutionize medical school. Being able to fully view a life size body in class could change the learning experience entirely, improving the quality of doctors’ education.

The organs-on-chips is another incredible new movement that can more rapidly and efficiently test medicines and perform clinical trials. By imitating real-life human organs through microchips, these organs-on-chips can test the positive and negative effects of various new medications or practices and be able to display the impact just like a human would.

A third technological breakthrough that could alter our whole view of health care is 3D printing of drugs. This could allow for immense personalization because drugs could be altered to people’s specific conditions and requirements. Never again would patients have to adhere to a standard prescription because the best option would be to specify it to individual needs. Both the amount of dosage and the combination of various drugs into one pile is all possible with 3D printing of drugs.

Lastly, the article mentions an Internet of Things for healthcare. Relating to Alexandro’s post, there is a proposal that healthcare might have its own Internet of Things. Having an Internet of Things for specific health care purposes would allow better and more patient specific data. Data is always the most important factor for tech companies and health care tech companies are not excluded. Everyday medical products, such as heart monitors, blood pressure readers, you name it, would have tracking devices and technology to collect data about every detail involved. Hospitals will be smart hospitals in a matter of time.

smart hospital

Showing specific technologies in hospitals. Taken from advantech.com

Additionally, in The Inevitable, a book by Kevin Kelly, there are predictions that the future of technology will eliminate the need for some doctors’ diagnoses entirely. He argues that by comparing the statistics of doctors’ correct diagnoses and computers’ correct diagnoses, computers win by far. He predicts that the future will involve listing your symptoms to a computer or app and then you will receive a diagnosis based on compiled previous data.

What does this mean in the future?

According to Karen Taylor, smart hospitals will exist by 2020 (click here for link to article). She argues that blockchain, bio-telemetry, drug development based on genomics and big data, and virtual rehabilitation will be the four driving forces behind smart hospitals. Each of these forces intentionally collects and utilizes data, therefore, constantly improving because of the network effect. Because of this constant progress, smart hospitals will continuously became, if you will, smarter. They improve themselves and make themselves more efficient naturally. By giving technology more of the work, physicians and health practitioners have more time to be able to spend to innovate even more technologies that will continue this progress. It would be a never-ending cycle of improvement and progress, if used correctly.

How do you feel about possibly visiting a smart hospital as soon as 2020, two years away? In my opinion, the specific issue health practitioners must keep in mind is not taking away that physician – patient relationship. Although there are notably numerous layers of technology and equipment that can easily replicate what a physician can do, such as diagnose or track patient statistics and data, technology will never be able to replicate a physician’s human characteristics. Physicians are able to comfort, help, and show love and kindness. Those attributes are irreplaceable when a patient is faced with a medical emergency. Personally speaking, the multitude of possibilities of breakthroughs due to technology that are on the horizon is unbelievably exciting. The future world is our oyster. However, we must constantly be weary of trying to fully replace doctors with technology because human beings have qualities that are absolutely not replicable.

8 thoughts on “Tech Meets Health

  1. It is funny to think that augmented reality could have such a positive impact on people’s lives, but the majority of us only used it for PokemonGo. It is incredible to think of the possibilities of “smart” hospitals, where everything would be interconnected and able to synchronize to give patients the ultimate experience. These technologies could also be huge in the effort to provide affordable healthcare as processes become automated and efficient. There is something to be said for the patient/doctor relationship, and it will always be smart and necessary to have doctors on hand, but it would be something straight out of a science fiction movie to think that maybe in one point somewhere far in the future hospitals could become nearly completed automated. Nice post, it really made me think about the future of medicine!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, Ellen! I agree that there is great opportunity for tech companies to move into healthcare. This article in Forbes (https://www.forbes.com/sites/chunkamui/2017/12/04/5-reasons-consumer-technology-companies-will-transform-healthcare/#159e41fb3b6c) sums it up in 5 major reasons. These include the fact that the market is large and ready for disruption and that these consumer technology companies have the resources, without the traditional biases, to innovate and collaborate within this space. It talks a lot about specific measures taken by Apple, like the ResearchKit platform, which has been quite effective for collecting health-care research data.

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  3. Great post, Ellen! My older sister started medical school this past year and she always discusses the integration of tech in their classroom with great enthusiasm – she would be thrilled to have a VR version of a human body readily at hand while learning. I agree that this market is anticipating disruption, I read an article by Stanford (https://stanmed.stanford.edu/2016fall/the-future-of-health-care-diagnostics.html) that basically hints that in the future, our health will be continually monitored so we will know right away if something is amiss. We’ll be at the hands of wearable and implantable devices, even smart toilets, that are constantly scanning our health signs. Even more interesting, the article notes that the future will be about diagnosis and prevention, while at current research is heavily devoted to treatment.

    Awesome topic, health is so vital to everyone and thus using technology to revolutionize our healthy lifestyles is an idea that I think many would be in favor of!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post! I think you’re spot on about how beneficial tech will be for healthcare. We’re already seeing technology save lives in situations where the victim is using a health monitoring device. The cases where the FitBit or Apple Watch catch a spiking heart rate and saves the person from a potential heart attack are already present. To scale that idea would be great for our well being.

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  5. Nice post. Actually my dissertation was in early medical records back in the 2000s. I thought I was going to focus in healthcare IT (still a huge area), but I got sidetracked by this new phenomenon called social media:). I still think the potential for healthcare IT is huge.

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  6. This was a great topic to discuss! Of course there are many different ways the top tech companies can “change the world,” but I’d definitely love to see more time and resources spent in the health care sector. The book I read over break, “Machine Crowd Platform,” actually discussed what a hospital could look like in the future. The authors really doubled down on the precision and accuracy of future AI and thought that robots should be doing the majority of diagnoses. They did however, as you noted, emphasis that the human element could never be replaced as no one would want to get bad news from a machine. Great post!

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  7. It’s fascinating to see how technology is being integrated into the world of medicine. At the end of the day, these various innovations have the potential to produce better doctors and save more lives, which are two of the most important aspects in our society. While I hesitate to say that robots should ever replace humans in this field, I’m also very interested to see how artificial intelligence can improve the physical practices in healthcare.

    Great job, though! I’m sure my biochemistry-majoring roommate, Jimmy, would love to read this.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I like how this post covers the spectrum in terms of health’s relationship to technology. From needing to first be alive (to use tech at all) to all potential uses of modern technology in health related fields, I feel like you really covered it all. The only other thing really left to talk about it is the current state of tech in health related fields. While I’m glad to hear that investment in health care and biotech startups are increasing, I am a bit saddened by my limited understanding and experience of tech in health. For the sake of this comment’s brevity, I’m going to limit my discussion to the fields of biotech and healthcare. First, my understanding of biotech is that for the capital put into it, the returns are relatively low on average. Unfortunately, this is due to the stringent process of testing that the FDA requires in order for potentially life changing drugs to be approved. While this is less of tech problem that it is a policy issue, the realty is that it’s holding back the tech’s potential in this field due to its boom or bust nature. On healthcare, I know that part of the issue is again government red tape (partly due to how secure medical records must remain). Unlike the biotech, I can experience the inefficiencies of this model in my own doctors office. While most of the medical equipment seems to be advancing with today’s technology, the information systems they are inadequate to the point of being comparable with the government. For one, my health care provider relatively recently implemented an integrated system where patients could message directly with doctors despite these type of services being widespread for around 20 years now.

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