A new year is upon us and we are already seeing amazing advancements in healthcare technology, everything from enterprise cloud software to nanobots. Is healthcare finally catching up with the times?
New startups and fortune 500 companies alike, are in a modern-day health care gold rush, with everyone trying to stake their claim. What are your thoughts on promising healthcare technologies coming out this year and in the future?
To those that embrace the future, here are the leading health care technologies to look forward to.
1. Nanobots in Blood
Although nanobots are far from being utilized today, but the future is coming where these tiny robots can function like our own white blood cells and destroy bacteria and other pathogens.
These miniature robots would function like their full-size equivalents with their own sensors, and propulsion systems and could perform small tasks like delivering chemotherapy 1000 times more powerful than using drugs and would not cause as many side-effects to patients like the current treatments do.
Other specific types of nanobots that are being developed are Microbivore, Respirocyte, Clottocyte, and Cellular repair nanobots that can destroy bacteria, carry oxygen, create blood clots for wounds, and repair cells.
The future is closer than we think, I remember just yesterday playing the Atari 64 with a single joystick and thinking, “Wow this is amazing!”
2. Head Transplants and Mind Transfer
Ever since the dawn of man, we have all wanted to live forever, and one day that may become reality with companies like Google and Brainpreservation.org looking for ways to extend life by curing disease, preserving our brains in stasis, or saving them on computers or another brain.
While it may seem strange for a tech company like Google to join up and fight the healthcare battle, it makes sense that their CEO Larry Page may want to improve his life and other’s around him and so they can solve life’s other tough challenges in the years to come.
How will this be accomplished…
Currently there are three methods cryopreservation, chemopreservation, and a hybrid approach that uses a blend of both methods.
A futuristic approach…
If Moore’s law holds, within a few decades, a supercomputer might be able to simulate a human brain at neural level at faster perceived speed than a biological brain. However, the exact date is difficult to estimate due to limited understanding of the required accuracy, and computational speed is not the only requirement for making full human brain simulation possible.
A full brain map has been estimated to occupy less than 2 x 1016 bytes (20,000 TB) and would store the addresses of the connected neurons, the synapse type and the synapse “weight” for each of the brains’ 1015synapses. However, the biological complexities of true brain function (e.g. the epigenetic states of neurons, protein components with multiple functional states, etc.) may preclude an accurate prediction of the volume of binary data required to faithfully represent a functioning human mind.
Copying one’s human brain to a computer or host may still be many decades away due to the massive amounts of nerve cells called neurons, 85 Billion to be exact and the complexity of mapping each connection, but that is not stopping current researchers from mapping the C. Elegans roundworm.
This worm was the first organism to have its genome sequenced, and the first to have its entire brain mapped. It is largely hermaphrodite, with 959 cells each of which has also been mapped. Its network of 302 neurons connect via 6393 synapses – its connectome – and link to the worm’s 95 muscles at 1410 junctions.
Independent researcher Tim Busbice has already created a digital copy of the worm’s brain with the data from the Openworm project and created an avatar to host the animal with wheels for muscles.
Another doctor by the name of Dr. Sergio Canavero believes that it’s now possible to slice the head of off one person, stitch it to the decapitated body of another, and then reanimate the two-human mash-up. What’s more, he says the first head transplant operation could come in two years, New Scientist reported.
3. The Hospital Experience
We all know that visiting a hospital is no thrilling experience, but companies like NXT Health are looking change the way we experience treatment in our rooms.
The goal with the modernized room design are to improve the interoperability of the systems in order to eliminate the wasteful redundancy and technological clutter that plague many modern healthcare facilities.
In order to facilitate changing technology and the dynamic needs of healthcare systems, the space features a pre-fabricated, modular system of interchangeable parts that allow adaptations to occur with a minimal impact on facility operations. Additionally, the technological touch points that are woven into the concept empower patients to have a sense of comfort and control during the medical experience by empowering them to connect with remote loved ones, collaborate with caregivers, and adjust various environmental features.
See the NHS, Stanford Hospital or Ottawa Hospital for practical examples. And companies such as the recently launched Calico from Google will make attempts at reaching these goals.
4. Robotic “Flight Simulator” Surgery
Roswell Park Cancer Institute is quickly becoming one of the leaders in surgical training, thanks in large part to a creative collaboration between University at Buffalo’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and RPCI’s Center for Robotic Surgery . Surgical procedures have always required years of training, and until recently most of that training is done in a live environment.
No sane person would climb aboard a commercial airliner if we knew the pilot was currently training on his or her first flight. We like to think of pilots as highly seasoned and experienced professionals. Many pilots first learn how to take the controls in realistic simulated environments, they learn how to fly without ever touching a flight control. We should treat surgery the same way, and we should expect that getting rid of the kinks has already taken place.
RoSS (Robotic Surgery Simulator) is changing the way surgeons hone their craft. Allowing real-world views of actual surgeries can give aspiring, practicing, or professional surgeons the chance to experiment and get it wrong in a simulated environment. More importantly, it gives these surgeons the tools they need to get it right when the time comes to perform surgeries when lives are at stake.
Although this specific tool has been around for a little while they are now being produced by Simulated Surgical Systems. Soon we may see productive alternatives to real-life surgical practice around the country.
5. Holographic Images
Hospitals are a place to go when you’re sick to get treatment, but did you know that in the United States, more than 2 million people are affected by hospital-acquired infections every year, and 100,000 people die as a result. and it costs an estimated $20 billion to treat these infections.
One area that can help dramatically is the ability to input data without actually touching physical devices such as keyboards, the mouse, etc. I remember last time I went to the dentist they put their gloves on as standard procedure and checked my teeth, but as they reached for the keyboard to input their findings they touched the mouse and keyboard which had no disposable cover. The main issue is that these input devices are swiped with a disinfectant cloth but are not cleaned properly. Imagine how many germs from 100’s of patients are collecting in the crevices.
A holographic data input like a keyboard or mouse may help reduce the amount of infections people are exposed to.
Some people may say this does not feel natural and like the ability to physically touch keyboard keys or other inputs so a company out of Tokyo, HaptoMime, uses reflective surfaces to create a floating virtual screen that you can actually feel. The technology is in its infancy but may hold some promise.
If you are looking for a very simple virtual keyboard, you can already purchase one on Amazon.
Another application for holographic imaging is to provide physicians with a comprehensive view of the procedure details as seen in a short video below.
6. Enterprise Cloud Business Intelligence Software
Building a new medical or dental business today, or maintaining relationships from your current network of referring providers is hard enough, and it is even more so when almost 100 percent of the healthcare system still relies on referral pads as one of the main sources of outreach to find and educate their network of services available at their facility.
As it stands today, a provider that wishes to grow their network will hire staff or an outsourced marketing company. They then create a referral pad with questions specific to every specialty in their organization and go door to door trying to build relationships with other providers, in hopes that they generate an increase in referrals.
This is changing with applications like referralMD, that help providers build their own referral network online and maximize revenues by tracking referral trends across their community network. referralMD also allows providers to research the top referring providers in their market, including competitors and where they send and receive their referrals to/from.
Why is this important?
The current method of using paper causes upwards of 50% of patient referrals to never result in a doctor’s visit. This huge gap in care causes patient’s to lose treatment, the healthcare facility to lose money, and increases the potential of malpractice lawsuits due to improper hand-offs and lack of audit trails. Consider this the next time you use a referral pad.
7. A Better Blood-Test Experience
No one likes needles, especially when you repeatedly have to get pricked by an inexperienced phlebotomist. Great news! Companies like Theranos have designed away to run tests with micro-samples of blood, 1/1,000th the size of a typical blood draw. The benefits are a better patient experience, but also a cost reduction in lab fees, which can be substantial.
One of the most common blood tests is the complete blood count (CBC) which assesses the cells in blood. It is not, as the name suggests, a test which completely tests everything in blood. It looks mainly at the three main types of cells in blood – red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
- CPT code: 85025
- Medicare Price: $10.69, Theranos price: $5.35
8. Mitochondrial DNA Transfer
Alternatively known as a “three parent baby” this process helps eliminate a variety of potentially fatal diseases like heart and liver failure, and deafness. Although many ethical and moral questions surround the recent U.K. approval of this process, the potential implications for future generations is boundless.
Mitochondrial DNA Transfer is when two parents contribute normally to an in vitro fertilization and a third-party contributes the mitochondrial DNA. The first two successful transplants of mitochondrial DNA occurred in the late 90’s as a result of fertility experimentation for previously unsuccessful couples.
The reason this makes the list for 2015 is that these procedures are becoming recognized for the potential that they may deliver. The reduction of gene related diseases may mean longer lifespans, improved health, and even the elimination of certain diseases. This process may also enable couples to conceive children who without it would never have the possibility. As these procedures are perfected and the science becomes more transparent the usefulness of this technology only grows exponentially.
The moral and ethical implications may lead to a platitude of arguments in the future, like whether or not designer babies will become a normal wealthy indulgence. Because these arguments exist, the rest of the world may experience a delay in acceptance of procedures like these; however, the potential benefits are likely to greatly outweigh the few extravagant outliers that always seem to expose themselves.
9. Stem-cell Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery
Stem-cells seem to have fallen from the spotlight in recent years, a few fraudulent claims and a variety of government hurdles has dampened these research fields in the United States. Finally some approved practical applications have started to surface in a variety of different fields.
Recently Dr. Rey has been spotted claiming that the majority of his breast augmentation surgeries are now performed by injecting stem-cell enhanced fat into procedure areas. The use of stem-cells for a variety of augmentations is starting to replace lipo-filling, which is the practice of removing full fat cells from one part of the body and transplanting them to another. This type of procedure can be used to help fix facial deformities, recover tissue lost due to cancer, and a wide variety of other necessary plastic surgeries.
Many scam based claims have been made by less than reputable service providers that stem cells can have glorious results for somewhat common procedures. Unlike those claims, using stem-cell augmented fat cells has been proven. In a study performed by Copenhagen University stem-cell enhanced fat cells retained 81% of initial volume through four months, in comparison with only 16% mass retention when lipo-filling alone is used.
The exciting part about this advancement is that stem-cell enhanced fat cells can be used in so many different environments, and the accepted uses of this technology will only grow as more benefits are uncovered. Replacing invasive surgeries with something much less complicated reduces recovery times and lessens the likelihood of mistakes and unforeseen complications.
10. Augmenting Human Capabilities
Perhaps the most visually impressive display of healthcare technology innovation is the video of Les Baugh controlling prosthetic arms with his mind alone.
Through extensive research on the way Les’ mind controlled his limbs, researchers were able to determine how mind managed these connections. With that research they were able to develop a technology that would read his brain activity and send the signals to sockets that controlled the motor functions of his prosthetic limbs.
An exciting technology spearheaded by an exciting pioneer, Mike Mclaughlin likens the current stage of this technology as the beginning of the internet. Funded by DARPA, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory is being tasked with creating naturally controlled artificial limbs – which we can see is already becoming a reality.
The reality of this science is that all of our lives will be changed, whether we know it now or not; just like the beginning of the internet when no one believed it would be useful, this will change the course of history.