The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
Healthcare is on the brink of a major redesign that will give you access to more personalised, precise and effective care.
For years now, growing ageing populations and the increase in chronic illness have created a pressing need to rethink the delivery of healthcare. While new digital technologies have offered answers to reduce the growing pressure and help transform health systems, widespread adoption of these technologies has often been slow.
The pandemic, however, has shown that adoption can move much faster. As lockdown restrictions were introduced, chances are you started consulting your general practitioner or medical specialist via messaging app or video call – services falling under what is referred to as virtual care.
Prior to COVID-19, people said it would take a decade before such services were widely accepted. The pandemic seemingly changed that overnight, highlighting how quickly we can embrace new ways of accessing care and extract greater value from existing technologies.
As healthcare providers and governments look to fundamentally redesign healthcare – with an urgency intensified by the pandemic – looking at the potential of other digital technologies offers a glimpse into the rapidly emerging future of care.
Internet of Things: Connecting patients for better care
Internet of Things (IoT) devices that connect to and exchange data with other devices via the internet, has the potential to herald in a whole new dimension of care delivery and transform the way you manage your health and wellness – just as the internet has already transformed so many other parts of our lives.
In the near future, networks of connected devices such as fitness trackers, wearable sensors and other monitoring devices will seamlessly connect to each other, collect and interpret data. Many people are of course already tracking some aspects of their personal health information, such as their heart rates and daily activity, but receive limited actionable insights.
As devices become more interconnected and the insights richer, you will have access to information that empowers you to better manage your health and well-being.
At the same time, if you have a chronic condition you will increasingly be able to connect to monitoring devices that help you manage your condition in your daily environment. You will have access to personalised feedback and coaching and remain in close contact with professional caregivers.
Hospitals equipped with such connected technology will increasingly monitor critically ill patients remotely, in real time, to spot potential problems early and act on them faster. Such examples point to a future with an expanding role for care beyond hospital walls.
At Philips, our vision is that healthcare solutions will increasingly become interconnected to offer real-time decision support and access to more personalised, precise and effective care. Data captured by IoT devices will play a critical role.
As the number and usage of IoT devices continues to grow, so does the amount of data generated by these devices. This provides the fuel for artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics to generate relevant and actionable insights.
Artificial intelligence: Enabling personalised and pro-active care
The amount of clinical data being captured by today’s health technology is already far too great for medical teams to evaluate. In addition, healthcare providers are often unable to leverage it in a meaningful way, as it is cluttered, fragmented and unstructured.
AI – another technology that is already at our fingertips and developing rapidly − can help. An AI engine can interpret data billions of times faster than the human brain. And it can identify subtle events, such as a deteriorating patient.
In the near future, AI will be increasingly used to analyse real-time data from patient monitors to detect deteriorations in intensive care unit (ICU) patients, helping to spot potential problems early and act immediately.
In stroke patients, it can already automatically detect minute clots in brain CT scans. It’s also already helping to increase workflow efficiency and enhance diagnostic confidence in, for example, radiology departments − pre-reading and prioritising scans to alert radiologists to patients that need immediate attention.
AI will be key to making treatment more precise and personalised, especially for cancer. Since cancer results from mutations in our cells’ DNA, a cancer patient and their tumor both have a unique genetic code.
Using AI to trawl through the genetic profiles of millions of cancer patients will be critical to deciding on the most effective therapies and clinical trials.
These developments show how digital technologies will increasingly play a critical role in assisting care teams to deliver the best care possible.
Cloud-enabled care every step of the way
We are at the beginning of a healthcare transformation that will see AI, the Internet of Things, virtual care and other digital technologies coming together to create highly personalised proactive care that follows us through every stage of life.
This will cover the end-to-end continuum of care - from healthy living and disease prevention to diagnosis, treatment, and care in the home.
In contrast to the one-size-fits-all solutions of yesterday, healthy lifestyle support will be personalised, prevention targeted, diagnosis more precise, treatment personalised and predictive, and home care proactive.
Within these wider, more holistic ecosystems, both you and your care providers will have access to all the necessary past, present, and predictive data needed for informed decision-making, plus the tools to implement timely and effective treatment.
Which is the reason why healthcare is set to become more personalised, precise and effective, because you will receive the care you need, when and where you need it.
- Frans van Houten is CEO of Philips, a leading health technology company