SMART HEALTHCARE AND TECHNOLOGIES IN THE HEALTHCARE SECTOR

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Technological evolution in the health sector leads to quality, results and value. Patients deserve effectiveness and personalization of services and for this reason it is important to invest in this direction. Digital healthcare is a trend that involves the use of new technologies, precisely to improve the level of assistance while keeping the costs, where it is possible.

Smart healthcare not only means adopting new products and technologies for diagnosis and treatment, but it includes a greater exchange of information among the parties, a more active role of patients during treatment and, finally, a better management of clinical data.

SMART HEALTHCARE AND NEW TECHNOLOGIES

Healthcare is actually smart because thanks to the devices connected to patients (bracelets, watches and more) it is possible to collect data on the health status of patients to take care of them, even remotely, and prevent critical situations.

Healthcare and IoT applied to medicine enable to use objects integrated by sensors that communicate with each other and exchange information. This exchange of information is necessary to prevent illness and diagnose disease in advance.

The AI can accurately predict heart attack or stroke. Thanks to the re-elaboration of big data, machine learning can save the lives, enabling of making the diagnosis even before the doctor.

Deloitte has identified twelve exponential technology to make medical care less expensive and more accessible to patients. These technologies include nanotechnology, genomics, blockchain, augmented reality, additive manufacturing, robotics and cognitive computing.

In particular, the younger generations of patients expect personalized and comfortable services that require the use of multi-channel retail communication, the adoption of social media and mobile apps. The smart healthcare workforce requires expert staff with additional skills. In addition, to make work of professionals more efficient, staff are supported by digital or robotic assistants.

First of all, it is important to clarify the concepts related to health and technologies:

  • eHealth: the use of ICT infrastructure for patient treatment, research and monitoring of diseases and public health;
  • mHealth: public health supported by digital mobile devices;
  • Smart healthcare network: the network that provides a dedicated connection for health and healthcare, using technologies such as Wi-Fi or Pol;
  • Smart healthcare cloud: the system responsible for coordinating public and hospital health services, able to connect patients and doctors for the transmission of data and information;
  • Smart clinic collaboration: the interaction process that facilitates the diagnosis of a seriously ill patient.

Huawei is working on the smart clinic collaboration , taking advantage from its know-how. In fact, it will help the San Raffaele hospital in Milan to create a techno-logical digital ecosystem, beneficial for the community.

The national governments themselves have launched some projects to encourage digitization and bridge the gap with the rest of Europe, which is still too evident. Various initiatives and projects have already been disseminated, including the appointment of the new innovation minister Paola Pisano, who has the task of stimulating digital innovation and improving the governance of the country.

Deloitte’s report also highlighted the following issues related to smart healthcare and technological innovation in terms of “smart” assistance:

  • Until 2021, overall spending on healthcare will be expected to grow by 4.3% per year, but that per capita will continue to present significant geographical disparities;
  • The average life expectancy will extend from 73 years in 2016 to 74 in 2021;
  • Great progress have been made in the fight against communicable diseases, improving the quality of life, hygiene conditions and access to treatment. At the same time, however, the levels of obesity increase, leading to a growth in chronic diseases, reaching 642 million diabetics by 2040;
  • They are expected to double the dementia sufferers over the next 20 years.

Smart healthcare technologies

World health spending will reach 8.7 trillion dollars by 2020. The main causes are the increase in labour costs and the extension of life expectancy, but also the growth of emerging markets and new advanced treatments. Technological development can make the healthcare sector more effective and more accessible, thanks to robots, AI, 3D printing, synthetic biology, data and analytics. Health systems, in fact, are increasingly oriented towards a “smart” approach, from which the term “smart healthcare” derives.

According to Deloitte, in fact, smart healthcare means adequate healthcare supported by technology.

Here is a brief overview of future innovations, which will impact not only the health, but also the hospitals’ structure:

  • Synthetic biology: interdisciplinary branch that brings together biology and engineering and gives the opportunity to create DNA, combined with cognitive calculation and artificial intelligence;
  • 3D printing and nanotechnology: these technologies give the possibility to print DNA tissue and develop white blood cells able to attack the cancer cells at molecular level;
  • Complementary diagnostics: helps doctors identify the most suitable treatment for patient care;
  • Biosensors and trackers: they help patients and doctors to treat and prevent diseases.

SMART HEALTHCARE AND HEALTH OF THE FUTURE

More than 20 years ago, WHO defined telemedicine as, “the delivery of health care services, where distance is a critical factor, by all health care professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and for the continuing education of health care providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities.”

Although today the doctor and patient communicate via email or WhatsApp, the check-up visit is still essential, but not for long, it will change. For example, the chronic patient equipped with a “smart” device will easily measure heartbeat, pressure, body temperature and much more. In the event of worrying variations, the device will send an alarm to the system.

Thanks to it the doctor will be able to view the information remotely, without the need for a physical movement. The same software is able to remind the patient to take his/her medicines and will give him/her advices to maintain a healthy and autonomous lifestyle.

This will lead to fewer queues in the waiting room and fewer routine checks, because the data collected so far “manually” by doctors will be processed by software. From the doctors point of view, they will certainly have more information to analyse and keep under control, that help them to understand better the patient’s situation.

In a future perspective, new technologies could collect our health data to monitor our health from birth to death.

By the profiling of patients, it will be possible to know the predispositions to certain diseases and cure them before they occur.

Thanks to the scanners that will detect our health conditions, doctors will be able to focus on the aspects in which human intervention is truly indispensable.

Although we are still far from the scenario described above, we already know that modern medicine is taking this direction.

The latest new products in the field of smart healthcare

Among the wearable devices that measure blood pressure there is the HearthGuide model by OMRON Healthcare, the wristwatch equipped with an inflatable bracelet inside the strap, for measuring the pressure. This bracelet allows you to carry out constant and regular monitoring, not distorted by factors such as the timeframe, nutrition and emotional peaks. High blood pressure and hypertension lead to 10 million deaths that could probably have been predicted in 80% of cases.

To use the device effectively, it is necessary to recharge the internal battery about twice a week. The watch also receives notifications from the smartphone, the count of the steps taken in a day, the calories burned and the distance travelled.

Another example of technology linked to smart healthcare is Smart Health, the innovative 5G Ready service for home telemonitoring and remote diagnosis support launched by Fastweb, which allows a significant improvement in the quality of life.

The contact lens developed by Google also testifies to the progress of biotechnology that can help us tackle the fight against diabetes. This product, in particular, measures the level of glucose in tears and transmits the data to a mobile phone, for later consultation with the doctor. In addition, the contact lens changes colour based on glucose levels, thanks to a sensor contained between two layers of glass.

The Image Grade therapy system used by Royal Philips today allows the doctor to observe the patient remotely and assess the real need for the operation. Through the app, the doctor keeps himself updated remotely on the patient’s condition, but the telematic comparison between the information remains fundamental.

The fact that everyday tools, such as mobile phones, can significantly improve patients’ lives is also demonstrated by a medical device not still realized, D-EYE (Digital Smartphone Ophthalmoscope), which offers a digital eye within the Human Body. Thanks to the combination with the mobile phone, the device allows you to process an image of the retina and transfer it for diagnosis to a specialized professional. Thanks to an early and remote screening, the healthcare system is also useful for post-therapy.

In conclusion, smart healthcare aims to move data and not people. All that remains is to hope that this future solution come soon and that the potential offered by the interaction between technology and medicine will be fully understood.

Keep at pace with the latest ehealth news, read the other articles on our JOurnal.

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