Telemedicine (telehealth) is a commonly used term that generally refers to video consultations between doctors and their patients. Doctors can view scans, assess diagnostic reports, monitor symptoms and physical progression of a medical condition on a remote basis. It means that the patient can get medical help without actually visiting a doctor, which sometimes can turn out to be difficult, expensive or in cases unadvisable from a medical standpoint. Telemedicine can also help the doctors to keep track of the process of taking medicines or assist in taking care of the elderly.
Along with the advantages there is a number of disadvantages/issues to be addresses in the future:
• poor internet connection which can prevent the patient from getting necessary care;
• cutback of in-person consultations (some patients and physicians thank that in-person visits guarantee a deeper level of connection and rapport to be built);
• reduced care continuity (this is especially an issue when it comes to mental health telemedicine services, as some apps allow patients to chat anonymously with psychologists and therapists, which does not allow following-up. If a person is at high risk for mental health conditions, this could create serious issues);
• lack of familiarity with technical equipment (patients, as well as providers may run into some trouble getting set up to effectively use telemedicine tools).
The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)
Various devices and mobile apps started to play an important part in tracking and preventing chronic illnesses for many patients and doctors. Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) has emerged by combining IoT development with telemedicine and telehealth technologies. This approach includes the use of a number of wearables, including ECG and EKG monitors. Many other common medical measurements can also be taken, such as skin temperature, glucose level, and blood pressure readings.
Here is some impressive numbers that will help to understand the prospects of IoMT for the nearest future:
• according to Gartner, over 26 billion devices will be connected through IoT and result in $1.9 trillion in global economic value added through sales by 2020;
• furthermore, 40% of IoT-related technology will be health-related, more than any other category, making up a $117 billion market;
• a report by Allied Market Research predicts that the IoT healthcare market will reach $136.8 billion worldwide by 2021.
Artificial Intelligence is a term on everyone’s lips. In the medical field, it makes the diagnostic process faster and more accurate. It also helps with early treatment approaches. For example, an AI-based diagnostic device that identifies conditions such as diabetic retinopathy by scanning the retina are already in use and prove to be very accurate. Radiotherapists and oncologists are already using AI to speed up processes, increase accuracy and reduce costs.
The IBM Watson system is a pioneer in this field. The system includes Machine Learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) modules and has recently made promising progress in oncology. For instance, in a cancer research, 99% of the treatment recommendations from Watson are coherent with the physician decisions. Furthermore, Watson collaborated with Quest Diagnostics to offer the AI Genetic Diagnostic Analysis. In addition, the system started to make impact on actual clinical practices. For example, through analyzing genetic data, Watson successfully identified the rare secondary leukaemia caused by myelodysplastic syndromes in Japan.
The idea of advanced robots performing complicated surgery has already become real. They can assist people in various ways:
• can perform high precision, minimally invasive procedures;
• can monitor the vital signs of a patient autonomously, and call for human intervention if needed;
• can help to disinfect patient rooms and reduce human exposure to possible contagion;
• can perform tedious tasks such as taking blood samples without having to prick the skin repeatedly to find a vein;
• can accurately identify the blood vessel and make the extraction quickly, causing less pain.
Experts predict that the use of robots in the medical field is set to shoot up in 2019.
Many of the technologies mentioned above are currently in use to varying degrees in different parts of the world. Their adoption and mainstreaming in the healthcare space is only set to increase. In 2019, one thing will stay the same – ehealth field will keep on growing. There is a number of challenges to face, but eventually we will see a more close and effective collaboration between doctors and health technology, which will ultimately improve patient care.