Technology is a driving force behind many healthcare advances, just like science, and in 2020 many technological developments helped the industry continue delivering care to their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. One silver lining of the pandemic was some expedited advancements in areas of growth in healthcare technology, especially with telehealth and other solutions to problems that stemmed from overcrowding due to COVID.
Artificial intelligence has also been responsible for many recent advancements in healthcare, both related to COVID and not. As the pandemic is expected to finally cease in 2021, here is a look at some technology trends in healthcare expected to last beyond COVID-19.
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As hospitals faced maximum capacities across the country, many had to temporarily transform other parts of their facilities into treatment areas for COVID-19 patients. Hospitals were able to continue providing care to patients whose sites of care were temporarily closed for COVID aid through web-based communications like Zoom. This long-distance healthcare style was collectively called telemedicine, which proved to be successful and a preferred method of communication for many patients, especially for simple consultations or check-ups.
Telemedicine obviously can’t work for every patient situation. Still, many health policies in America are expected to add focuses on web-based communications to lower costs to the hospital, ultimately lowering costs for patients.
Artificial intelligence was already a catalyst for many technological advancements in healthcare before COVID, but even more came about amidst the pandemic. AI was used for contact tracing applications, as well as in predictive analysis relevant to vaccines.
Here are a few other tech trends fueled by AI:
Scheduling – Patient access and timely care are two areas of healthcare that can always be improved, making the patient experience better. With AI-based computer programs, automatic scheduling can be done for a patient even if that patient has many specialists to visit in a given path of care. Automatic text and call reminders are also generated by AI and make for fewer missed appointments and less wasted time.
Education – AI in education is helping aspiring caregivers all across the healthcare map. Many procedures can now be performed on near-lifelike AI robots that can report their experiences, allowing for repeated practice for a given procedure. Education about their patients is also much easier thanks to advancements in the sharing and storing of electronic health records.
Imaging – Digital imagery processes and capabilities are enhanced by technology every single year. In addition to increased clarity of x-rays, MRI images, ultrasounds, and more, AI programs can recognize patterns in a given image and translate those patterns into predictive analysis. This can help see diseases before they form and can also be used to create things to stop cell growth, such as a vaccine for a virus.
The predictive analysis mentioned in the imaging section above is an example of an advanced portion of artificial intelligence called machine learning. In healthcare, machine learning capabilities are almost infinite, but many patients still balk at the thought of robots performing their healthcare procedures. Robot-assisted surgery is one area of healthcare where machine learning can save a lot of lives. These machines can recognize patterns in a patient based on former surgeries performed, allowing for adjustments to be made. With sharing of data, the entire fleet of robot surgeons can, theoretically, share their information and increase the knowledge base surrounding a given procedure exponentially.
Healthcare Technology: Looking Ahead
AI advances so quickly, and healthcare is one industry that rarely lacks funding for research. Due to the economic struggles of 2020, the trend flattened a bit, but in 2019 investors gave more than $4 billion to AI startups focused on the healthcare industry, and those kinds of investments are expected to increase further.
Technology in healthcare is both interesting and lifesaving, and AI advancements offer a lot to both.