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Technology is transforming healthcare at a rapid pace. From direct-to-consumer products that can allow patients to track and monitor their own health post-physician visit or hospital stay, to the impact telehealth is having on rural healthcare, to how wearables and AI are changing the game when it comes to patient care, there’s much to be excited about. Here are a few examples of how technology is transforming healthcare in exciting ways.
Direct-to-Consumer Innovation: One Example is FDA Cleared EKG Monitor
Direct-to-consumer innovation in healthcare is both exciting and practical. It solves real-world problems and allows consumers to monitor their health and take care of themselves in ways that used to require a visit to the physician’s office. One example of innovation in healthcare along these lines is the FDA-cleared, clinical grade personal EKG monitor by AliveKor. This device captures a medical-grade EKG reading in 30 seconds anywhere, any time, and it works with most smartphones and tablets. A user can simply put his or her fingers on the electrodes and see results instantly.
Diabetes is another disease where patients are experiencing (and benefiting from) direct-to-consumer innovation. Monitoring blood glucose levels by way of a finger prick test quickly adds up. Ten pricks a day, 70 times a week, and that’s on top of insulin injections. This traditional testing method is hard on the body and has a big impact on quality of life. Innovations in continuous glucose monitoring are changing that. Patients can insert a tiny sensor under the skin, which can record blood glucose levels every few minutes and send the data to a smart device or smartphone. These transmitters can also sound an alarm if the numbers are too low or too high. My teens have a classmate with juvenile diabetes and she’s been monitoring her blood glucose levels using this technology for the past few years. It makes her life much easier than the old school, inconvenient way of finger pricks and her diabetes is, in the big scheme of things, pretty easy to manage as a result.
Telehealth Improves Healthcare and Physician Access
Rural communities and their isolated landscape make up a big portion of the United States. But living in a rural area can make it hard for individuals to get medical care—and that’s a problem that’s increasing in scope at an alarming rate. In rural parts of America, patients are frequently hundreds of miles from the care they need. Even when rural patients are able to get the care they need, it’s frequent challenge to ensure consistent coverage. Patients are often transferred to remote acute care centers in order to get specialized care making it difficult for them and their families, not to mention expensive.
Telemedicine addresses the needs of individuals who reside in rural areas and is helping rural patients get the specialized care they need from hospitals and physicians who might not otherwise be available to them. Telemedicine is not only used in rural communities. Several of my physicians are integrating telemedicine into their practices so that I don’t always have to drive across town to be seen, I can simply video chat about a problem or concern and be on my way to a resolution in no time. This is another way technology is transforming healthcare.
Wearables and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Hospitals are using Wi-Fi enabled wearables that allow remote monitoring following patient discharge of vital signs like respiratory rate, oxygen levels, heartbeat, blood pressure level, and body temperature. This not only reduces readmission rates and emergency room visits it also empowers and enables patients to play an expanded role in their healthcare.
Hospitals and healthcare organizations are using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to process and examine patient information in real-time using data from wearable monitors. Not only is this reducing re-admissions and emergency room visits, the need for expensive in-home nursing visits is also reduced. In addition, longer term adherence to treatment plans has increased significantly when patients are connected, even remotely, to their care experts by way of technology.
When technology is able to continuously search for warning signals based on the information monitoring and data analysis provides, it gives patients and their families something that has until now been nonexistent: Supplying healthcare solutions before they even know they need it.
Using AI to Transform Mental Health Care
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that almost 18 percent of American adults suffer from some kind of mental disorder, however, only a small number have access to the treatment they need. But while mental disorders are steadily growing, fewer patients have the ability to afford out-of-pocket mental wellness services. That’s why AI is playing a big role in the transformation of mental health care — here are just a few examples.
Tracking Stress. According to the Stress and Depression Association of America, almost 3.1 percent of the U.S. Population is impacted by Generalized Anxiety Disorder. An increasing number of AI-powered mental wellness tech programs were created in an effort to address these statistics. Apps like Moodpath were developed to track stress models by providing users with daily evaluations. After fourteen days of usage/tracking, the app creates a document which may be shared with a healthcare professional.
Managing Stress and Anxiety. Pacifica is another very popular wellness app, with some 2.6 million registered users. Pacifica describes itself as “an app for stress, anxiety, and depression based on cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and wellness.” The app is designed to be a daily tool to help users manage anxiety and stress at a comfortable pace, as well as to connect them to a community of other users for support.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy Tools Delivered by Chatbot. Woebot is an AI-powered chatbot that is like one of the many omnipresent messaging services that proliferate our lives. The chatbot “listens” to how you are feeling, learns about you, and offers evidence-based cognitive behavior therapy tools. These interactions are tailored to the individual users’ unique situations, and are not intended to replace mental health professionals, but instead to perhaps augment the care and counsel they can provide.
PTSD Aid. NYU’s School of Medicine has developed an AI tool that can analyze voices and identify those with PTSD with what they claim is an accuracy rate of 89 percent. Researchers combined advanced biometrics tools derived from AI science with high quality audio recordings of the human voice spectrum, and then applied random forest machine learning to filter through and select the features that carry the signal of PTSD diagnosis. Seriously cool stuff.
These are just a few examples of how technology is transforming healthcare, and they barely scratch the surface of all that’s already out there and all that’s on the horizon.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.