Alex Inkin


We’re living in an era where technological innovation is a daily occurrence. As it grows increasingly tailored to our individual needs, industries are looking to benefit by embracing and integrating these new technologies, with aims to profit from the needs of the many in order to better serve those needs. Here are 5 ways the health industry is evolving and adapting to these technological changes, ushering in what has been deemed ‘Industry X.0’:

Wearables: Wearable tech has been known to the world since the introduction of consumer products like various smartwatches and the Fitbit, mostly used as a stylish method of preventive health and health maintenance. Only now they are beginning to emerge in the medical world as a treatment to physical and mental afflictions and due to the highly targeted and personal nature of wearable technology, we are beginning to see cheap and easy ways of monitoring and potentially preventing major health issues, with fewer negative side effects than that of consumable medicines. Patients are already sporting non-prescription devices with app pairing capabilities to read and display wearers’ physiological data in real time. This has enormous implications for the future of the health industry. Wearable technology will be able to read our bodies, react to it and prevent an attack or put us back on track should we lose concentration. Parkinson’s, ADHD and menstrual cramps are just a few of the afflictions that wearable tech will be able to combat in the coming years. Whether it comes in the form of glasses, wristbands, abdomen add-ons or socks, this tech is far better suited to help sufferers with these issues, without the need for body-altering medicinal intervention.
3D Printing: Drug production is being reshaped with the intent of providing personalised prescriptions at a much faster rate for patients. Through streamlining the manufacture of drugs, the health industry is well on its way to creating customised medicines to suit the individual wants and needs of patients. This can include anything from the shape of the drug, the size, the colour and the release characteristics. 3D printing offers drug companies a much faster means of manufacture, meaning iterations of new drugs can be tested at a much faster rate, therefore reducing the time it takes to deliver to patients who may be in dire need. Medicine is entering an age where ‘one size fits all’ is a notion of the past, in which exists more options than ever for patients. Prosthetic limbs are designed and printed to fit individuals exact specifications, and in some cases, far more intricate internal parts like bones are being printed to help those with specialist cases or reconstruct broken bones after an accident. The possibilities of 3D printing are staggering. Soon it won’t just be about replacing what has been lost or broken, but it has the potential to improve our natural form to run faster, jump higher and carry more. Did somebody say the Cyborg Olympics?
Artificial Intelligence: From chatbots to wearable tech to accurately diagnosing patients’ conditions, Artificial Intelligence has certainly caught the attention of the industry. Chatbots are already in full effect, being utilised by multiple companies’ health apps and websites as a helpful alternative to the non-emergency 111 number. It learns from its users, adapting its language in real time as they converse with it, by picking up on the idiosyncratic ways in which the public describe their symptoms, delivering condition assessments and recommendations for next courses of action. This is just one application of AI in the industry. It will be built alongside GPs to assist them when time is of the essence, as well as serving to deliver difficult news by completely erasing emotion from the equation. It doesn’t stop there. It will be used to analyse vast amounts of compiled data using human-made algorithms and apply it to a problem, attempting to diagnose patients’ conditions based on evidence and deep learning. Digitisation of data is about weaponising it against disease. It is designed with the intention of heavily improving the performance of doctors across the world by taking a lot of the workload and delivering computer-accurate results based on hard evidence fed to the AI.

Digitisation of data is about weaponising it against disease.

Virtual Reality: VR has been making waves in the gaming industry since its release in 2016 and as it turns out, it has multiple useful applications for the health industry too. Monitoring and measuring players’ spatial perception as they play can aid doctors in the early diagnosis of dementia, long before any memory loss actually occurs. Breakthrough stuff. Doctors and students are using the virtual realms to practice surgery in a safe environment, while it can also be used as a means of physical therapy for individuals who have suffered from a stroke, affording them their independence and a degree fun on their respective roads to recovery. With the ability to decode facial movements using the internal camera while patients play, doctors are also able to treat afflictions like Parkinson’s, autism and cerebral palsy. It’s also being used to treat mental conditions like depression, PTSD, phobias and various psychiatric conditions. VR is incredibly helpful in the world of drug development too, with chemists now able to get up close and personal with the intricacies of the drugs they’re designing in the virtual realm. It allows for far more detailed and meticulous development of drugs by offering a way to manipulate the individual molecules in a highly visual way. New iterations of drugs will be able to be tested at a faster rate, increasing the overall efficiency and rate that they can get out to patients. It seems virtual reality is set to be one of the major new players in the world of drug development and disease diagnoses.
Video Streaming: In the world of digital, apps run the show. Now air ambulances in Surrey, Sussex and Kent are in the midst of trialling an application that will allow paramedics to view high quality, livestream videos in order to assess a situation before arriving at the scene. The idea is to increase the speed at which potentially lifesaving decisions can be made, with access to incident locations, details and even the patient’s pulse. The brilliance of this is that the paramedics will always turn up fully equipped with the correct resources to deal with any situation. Due to the powerful processing system, the battery life of the device using the app will not drain quickly, despite the high frame rate filming.