Can Tech Disruption Save Healthcare?

Digital disruption has transformed many industries. Think of Airbnb and Uber as two prime examples of revolutionary change in travel and transportation.

Healthcare appears poised to be one of the next areas prime for digital disruption. As it struggles with demographic changes and the political volatility around paying for it, can tech disruption save healthcare?

Digital innovation has made several notable inroads in healthcare in the past decade. Electronic health records give people and practitioners access to medical information and history with ease. Wearables and the Internet of Things allow for better monitoring of health via apps and data collection that 10 years ago, was not feasible.

Technologies like smart beds, connected scales, and virtual reality hit the technology news as they change the way physicians identify and treat illness.

Here are five areas where technology is likely to continue to play a transformational role in healthcare.

1. Artificial Intelligence

AI systems could transform the way physicians and researchers use real-time information to improve patient outcomes, reduce costs and eliminate unnecessary medical procedures. By 2020, according to Forbes, diabetes, and cancer could be diagnosed in minutes using cognition programs that, combined with 3D imaging, recognize characteristics of diseases. AI is projected to be used in 90 percent of U.S. and 60 percent of the worldwide hospitals and insurance companies.

AI can be used to deliver medical information, ensure medication compliance, and automate diagnoses.

2. Immunotherapy

Checkpoint inhibitor technology is a novel approach to cancer treatment that uses antibodies to block proteins that mask cancer cells’ true identity. When the body’s immune system sees these proteins, it assumes the cell is healthy. By blocking the protein, the antibodies allow T cells to attack the cancerous cells.

Technology is driving other immunotherapy treatments, including the development of new vaccines and combining new and old drug therapies in different ways.

3. Liquid Biopsies

Invasive biopsies are needed to gauge the growth or shrinkage of cancerous tumors and determine treatment regimens. Liquid biopsies under development would use biomarkers to allow for the tracking and monitoring of tumors via a simple blood draw.

Digital disruption is changing the way doctors interact with patients, diagnose and treat illness and keep chronic conditions controlled.

4. Gene Editing

The use of the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technique allows for DNA to be modified cost effectively, accurately and reliably. The technology could revolutionize how research and development are done and products are developed throughout the life sciences. Companies are pouring millions into developing research tools and therapeutics that use the technology.

In addition to human therapies, the technique can be used in agriculture to modify crops and animals, improve yield and nutrition, and grow hardier crops and animals resistant to disease, pests or climate.

5. 3D Printed Tissue

3D printing has powerful potential for medicine due to its customizability. Customization can reduce expenses, surgical time and recovery. Dental implants, hearing aids, prosthetics, and joints are some of the likely opportunities.

Eventually, the technology could be used to print tissue, including organs, eyes, ears, hands or tissue components Forbes reports that the worldwide 3D printing industry for healthcare will reach $6 billion by 2025.

Technology will continue to play an important role in the way healthcare research and practice operate and healthcare companies shape business strategy.