Top‌ ‌5‌ exciting ‌Medical‌ ‌Technologies:‌ ‌2021‌ ‌and‌ ‌beyond‌

The internet-of-things, rapid advances made in nanotechnology and explosive developments in bioscience has led to the proliferation of new and advanced technologies pushing forward the limits of what is possible in the Medical field today. Presented here are the top 5 exciting technologies that are making huge waves in the Health and Medical sectors, spanning the last decade and moving beyond the next.

Telehealth

The COVID-19 pandemic brought to the fore the need for the remote delivery and access of healthcare. Telehealth is a broad term that covers both Telecare and Telemedicine. Telehealth technology facilitates the provision of health information services, healthcare services and healthcare education.

Telehealth allows health and medical facilitates to offer the remote delivery of healthcare services and clinical information using telecommunications technology. It also enables the delivery of clinical services using the internet, wireless connections, satellite, and mobile networks. These services can include video calls, remote patient monitoring, or even online consultations. There are benefits to telehealth beyond just convenience: it also allows for a more flexible approach to healthcare and can be used to provide services to remote or rural areas where traveling long distances may otherwise be prohibitive.

Imagine sitting in the comfort of your home or office and having access to a medical professional as and when you need it. You get to talk to a medical expert in real time, receive a diagnosis and or prognosis and are able to purchase drugs and or book appointments for further consultations, all on your mobile device. Thankfully, advances in technology currently makes this possible. This proved indispensable in the wake and peak of the pandemic. 

Cloud Technology

Cloud technology is a game-changer in the medical field. Why? Because it makes it easier to work with data, share it, and save it.  The ‘Cloud’ is a reference to this technology and is the blanket term that describes massive data storage and processing capabilities of current computer servers. Cloud-based technology allows for rapid completion of computer tasks, storage of massive data and the processing of this data at supersonic speeds. Cloud technology has become part of our everyday life as it is used in email applications, company operations systems, company database management and the management of social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

The healthcare industry has also benefitted from the advent of cloud technology and is fuelling the fast-paced changes happening within the sector. For example, cloud-based technology provides doctors with a single access point to patient data, allowing for remote collaboration between doctors to facilitate the rapid diagnosis of an illness or to proffer a comprehensive treatment plan for a patient. Cloud-based technology enhances a health facility’s ability to provide an integrated and efficient patient care because it allows for interoperability among the different departments.

Cloud technology also allows individuals who are based in different locations to collaborate on projects easily, no matter where they’re located! This played a key role in the rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccines by facilitating rapid collaboration among scientists across the world.

There are inherent risks associated with the use of technology in managing patient data, such as data theft, but the benefits of cloud technology far outweigh the risks. The high security of cloud technology means, as a patient, you can rest assured that your data is safe and secure—and that version control is never an issue.

Nanotechnology 

Nanotechnology is a rapidly advancing field of technology that deals with the manipulation and control of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Also known as nanotech or molecular manufacturing, it involves the design, production and application of structures, devices and systems at a nanoscale by manipulation of nanoparticles.

This technology has its roots in a study conducted in 1981 using the scanning tunnelling microscope. It involves the use of nanomaterials (nanoparticles) to create new and more useful materials, devices and systems. The application of nanotechnology in medicine includes drug delivery, wound treatment, cell repair, antibacterial treatments, and diagnostic techniques.

In the drug delivery process, nanoparticles are used to deliver drugs, heat, light or other substances to specific types of cells such as cancer cells in a more precise way. The particles are engineered so that they are attracted to diseased cells, which allows direct treatment of those cells. This technique reduces damage to healthy cells in the body and also allows for the earlier detection of disease.

For wound treatment, researchers have developed polymer nanoparticles that act as synthetic platelets. Tests conducted in the laboratory indicate that the injection of these synthetic platelets into wounds significantly reduces blood loss. Controlling blood loss is essential in the outcomes of patients who have been involved in a motor accident or suffered some other kind of trauma. Controlling blood loss is also critical during surgery.

Another application is using nanomaterials to create new materials for medical devices like stents and catheters, which could allow doctors to use smaller equipment that requires less invasive surgery procedures. Nanotechnology has enhanced the way medical researchers tackle the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, and continues to provide new and improved ways of tackling medical issues.

Medical Tricorders

This is a futuristic concept of a handheld, portable scanning device designed for the rapid self-diagnosis of illness. This device can also be used to check basic vital parameters. 

The idea behind this device is that it will be a simple-to-use device that can perform a number of tests in a non-invasive way. The device will collect the user’s data, analyse it and present a diagnosis based on the analysis. It can be a standalone device or be connected to a health facility database using the internet.

Current versions of this type of device include  portable glucometers, as well as smartphones and tablets with health tracking applications and wearables like a Fitbit band. Scanadu, a medical technology company, has developed a device that can collect data such as heart rate, breathing rate, temperature and heart signals by being placed just next to the patient.

There are other companies also working hard to develop their versions of a Tricorder. These include QuantuMDx, Ibis Biosciences and TRIM prob. The ‘X Prize competition’ initiated by Qualicomm and announced in 2012, aims to motivate research teams around the world to develop a true Tricorder device that can diagnose 13 different medical conditions including colon cancer. The prize money is set at a fantastic sum of  $10,000,000.  5 teams from 4 countries including the US, Taiwan, Canada and India have been working diligently on a prototype of this device and have made amazing progress over the years. The team from Canada, Cloud DX is leading the charge. Cloud DX is currently commercializing their Vitaliti™ Continuous Vital Sign Monitor, a key part of their competition entry. Testing for regulatory approval is underway, with final approvals expected in 2021. This amazing device could be a reality in the next couple of years.

3D Printing

This is also known as additive manufacturing and involves the physical printing of a digital model of an item via the addition of successive layers of an appropriate material. This technology was first developed in the late 1980s. It has many applications in different industries, including the medical field.

The medical sector has experienced great advances in human organ transplants, the speed of surgeries, production of cost-effective surgical tools and the development of prosthetic limbs due to the improvements made in 3D printing technology. 3D printing technology has come to stay and its application in the healthcare sector is expected to grow exponentially over the next 5 years.

The technology can be used to produce tissues and whole organs, patient-specific surgical models and prosthetics, as well as specialized surgical tools. A 3D printer uses bio-ink, which is a preparation of living cells to print tissues or organs. It does this by layering the preparation to create the physical model from the digital design. The printed tissue or organ is an artificial living item which can be used in place of their natural versions.

3D-printed models also aid in teaching and learning by surgeons. This provides an alternative situation for students to learn how to be better and faster in the operating rooms. This in turn reduces patient trauma from long surgical hours and mistakes.

The takeaway

Rapid advancements in technology has had a great impact on major sectors of human development, especially the medical field.  As technology continues to improve the way medical research, disease diagnosis and treatment is carried out, patients stand to benefit enormously.

Telehealth, 3D printing and nanotechnology are just a few of the medical technologies that are being used to change the way patients access and experience quality healthcare. Telehealth is allowing doctors to deliver care to patients in rural areas. 3D printing has revolutionized how implants are made, while nanotechnology allows medical professionals to create targeted drugs with fewer side effects. Cloud computing helps store medical records securely on a central server where they can be accessed by anyone in an emergency situation.

The technology trends presented here are some of the most exciting technologies in use in the medical field today. These technologies will continue to play a pivotal role in future developments in the medical field and healthcare sectors.

As an online health information and healthcare trends platform, we will continue to keep you updated on the latest developments in the medical and healthcare sectors.  

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November 22, 2021