In the age of rapidly advancing science and technology, it is important for us to adapt to growing trends to better address the needs of the people that we serve at work. Thus, we realize the value of innovation and building solutions using new technology to address society’s problems. Like in different industries, the healthcare industry has also seen much development. With healthcare institutions and providers integrating new products and services to boost its complexity and coverage, let’s dig deep into what the tech world has to offer for the healthcare industry.
First, we have cloud computing. In the last few years, we’ve seen major changes in how we store and process our data. Apart from all the storage devices we’ve been using - from CDs to thumb drives, hard drives and even solid state drives - we now make use of online storage solutions such as Google Drive or Dropbox that depend on cloud technology. This technology enables us to share files to virtually anyone anytime, anywhere.
However, storage is only one aspect of cloud computing as it also enables us to operate software on the cloud or what we call “software-as-a-service” (SaaS). This revolutionary technology helps healthcare facilities enter the world of interoperability–the connection of different systems and databases bringing way to efficient clinical operations. In light of this, we’ve seen an increase in the number of healthcare management systems that make use of the cloud.
Thanks to cloud computing and interoperability, we are now able to access more and more sets of data. These can then help our organizations and institutions analyze our current business landscape, or what we call “big data” as coined by NASA researchers in 1997 (Alexandru, et al, 2016). With its 4 important layers - data storage, data aggregation, data analytics, and information exploration - healthcare facilities can now extract insights from its large database to produce insights that can benefit the institution and even the larger healthcare system of the country at a macro level.
The ecosystem of wearables and smart devices that make up the entire Internet of Things (IoT) have transformed not just how we interact with our homes and offices but also how we monitor our important statistics and metrics. Smartwatches, for example, have dozens of integrated features such as sensors that monitor heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and even blood pressure that allow doctors and healthcare professionals to see the trends of a patient’s vitals historically. While these devices are not 100% accurate, they still have an important purpose in verifying possible underlying conditions that may not be previously monitored, as well as the fact that patients can now monitor their own vitals on the go. When used with cloud computing and big data, IoT can be used to assess a patient’s condition in a more holistic and complete manner even if patients are miles away from their doctor and clinic.
VR & AR
Virtual reality and augmented reality enable us to enter a new world with just a pair of VR glasses or a VR headset. While we may know about these from the gaming world, both virtual reality and augmented reality have important uses in healthcare. Therapeutic virtual reality, a specific type of virtual reality used in the realm of health, has gained traction in terms of usage in important procedures in healthcare.
Therapeutic VR specifically addresses the pain and anxiety felt by patients when they undergo consultations, surgeries, and other procedures by mimicking a total different world from a hospital or clinic room. This distracts the patient and helps them process a completely different experience while the procedure is being done (Delzell, 2021). While clinical processes are also rapidly developing, the notion of pain and fear remains difficult to eradicate. Thus, VR strives to augment the success of procedures and confidence of patients during operations.
Decentralization & Web 3.0
The most recent and rapidly developing concept in this list is decentralization and the rise of Web 3.0. While decentralization has been a term in the healthcare space for a while now, its usage in technology, healthcare, and Web 3.0 was not actualized until the past year or so. Given that information is more recently stored in the cloud, ownership of online data has been primarily with larger companies and their servers. However, this has been jeopardized in the past few years due to frequent data breaches, which is why Web 3.0 hopes to provide users with confidence with storing data online by decentralizing data to each user rather than a company and providing them ownership of their own data. Innovations in healthcare specifically addressing Web 3.0 have been in the works, which is something we expect to see in the coming months and years.
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Alexandru, A., Alexandru, C. A., Coardos, D., & Tudora, E. (2016). Healthcare, Big Data and Cloud Computing. WSEAS Transactions on Computer Research, 4, 123-131.
Delzell, M. (2021). Virtual reality in medicine. Retrieved from WebMD.