Digital Health – What Does the Future Hold ?
Digital Communications Technologies are triggering a revolution in healthcare at a time when public healthcare services are in danger of collapse under the strain of lifestyle related medical conditions which are now the most common cause of mortality.
What are some of the key implications of these technologies on the health and medicine sectors?
The digital technologies which will have the biggest impact on global health will not have been designed by or for medical professionals
Consumer technologies, sometime referred to as “general” technologies are being applied across almost all sectors of business and society for purposes which were not originally envisaged or intended. The health sector is a good example in which all of the technologies shown below are now being applied for health and well-being :-
- Fitness Trackers
- Whatsapp and WeChat
- Virtual Reality Headsets
- Panoramic Cameras
- Artificial Intelligence
With the possible exception of fitness trackers, none of these technologies were developed by or for medical professionals. There are some profound implications, not only for the future of healthcare but also for the roles and responsibilities of health professionals and citizens. The graph below shows how digital technologies for health are shifting from expensive, stand-alone, proprietary technologies to smart, connected, consumer technologies and the responsibility for personal health management shifting from health professionals to citizens (with support from professionals).
The impact of consumer technologies
These trends, as with other knowledge professionals, will lead to many tasks currently performed by experienced and highly qualified staff to be devolved to junior staff supported by these technologies.
Virtual reality applied to mental health
A good example of a consumer technology being applied to health applications in ways never previously envisaged is virtual reality which is now being used for a multiplicity of applications in the health sector, including treatment of clinical conditions such as dementia.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and associated technologies present the biggest threat/opportunity to human health and wellbeing
AI is becoming ubiquitous in all aspects of human life with many beneficial applications in the medical sector including diagnostics and surgery where the use of AI is beginning to deliver better outcomes for both doctor and patient.
The presentation links below (1) highlight some of the potential dangers of AI related to human dependence on its capabilities. The example quoted in my presentation is the use of AI and implanted technology to replace or augment the body’s own functions e.g. an insulin pump for diabetics which is triggered and controlled by embedded glucose sensors. I believe that the essence of humanity is reflected in the need for challenges and individuality which are both under threat from AI.
Hospitals of the past/present are part of a National Sickness Service – Hospitals of the Future will be part of an International Health/Wellbeing Service
The Guigian International General Hospital
There are enormous pressures on health services across the globe with the danger of collapse under the pressure of lifestyle related conditions. In these circumstances, it is understandable that hospitals are totally focused on responding to and tackling ill health rather than strategic preventable healthcare for the whole community.
The presentation links below (1) cover the recent launch of a new 3,000 bed hospital in China which could become a template for hospitals of the future as a community, commercially self-sustaining hub and centre of technological innovation with a focus on preventative healthcare and early intervention in lifestyle related conditions.
Vice President – International Society of Digital Medicine (ISDM)
IORMA Advisory Board Member
The Powerpoint presentation is available for download at https://www.slideshare.net/dwortley/digital-health-applications-and-hospitals-of-the-future
The presentation video is available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/vRWGxKesGhw