Top 10 Trends in Global Health and Tech
The COVID-19 pandemic and emerging technologies have radically influenced the most recent global health trends. As much of the world went into quarantine and researchers pushed concepts to their limits, new trends emerged. The following 10 stand out as some of the most important changes in global healthcare and technology.
Artificial Intelligence Improves Patient Outcomes
Artificial intelligence and machine learning offer deeper insights into potential treatments for a wide range of health issues. The AI market was worth at least $6.6 billion before the pandemic. Now, the technology matters more than ever as companies like Tempus use AI to improve patient outcomes through precision medicine. With help from AI, researchers can mine data for deeper insights into potential treatment options and how those options will affect individual patients.
Big Data Analytics Finds Correlations in Patient Records
Now that most medical information is stored as electronic health records (EHR), researchers have the opportunity to use big data analytics to find patterns the human mind cannot perceive. Big data analytics has numerous healthcare applications. Recently, scientists have used big data and Next General Sequencing to sequence genetic information inexpensively, making it easier for doctors to determine which treatments will help patients while causing as few adverse side effects as possible.
Comparing an individual’s genes with the vast amount of data gathered from EHRs worldwide, doctors can pinpoint the best treatment option for each person.
Virtual Care Reaches More Patients at Lower Costs
The pandemic made it challenging for patients to meet physicians for routine care. Each trip to a hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office puts the patient at a higher risk of exposure to the virus. High patient traffic would also put employees at risk. Virtual care offered an obvious solution that will likely continue to grow even after the threat subsides.
The latest estimates from 2021 show that telehealth use has increased 38X from the pre-COVID baseline. While reliance on telehealth has fallen slightly since the height of the pandemic, more people now feel comfortable using remote, virtual options for healthcare.
Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) Improves Patient Care
Telehealth has several limitations compared to in-office visits. For example, patients rarely own the equipment that healthcare providers need to measure their vitals and offer treatments. Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) will help break some of the barriers between remote patients and offices. Although the technology still needs several improvements, it already shows exceptional value for monitoring high-risk patients, refilling medications when required, measuring vitals, and even preventing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
More Personalized Healthcare Plans
General developments in several areas of medical technology make personalized healthcare plans more possible than ever before. Healthcare providers with access to the right technologies can use AI, biosensors, virtual care, and deep learning from big data to give individuals the precise interventions they need for longer, healthier lives.
3D Printing Fills Gaps and Lowers Expenses
Manufacturing surgical implants, devices, and other medical items that fit a specific patient help improve outcomes, but it also adds tremendous cost to treatments. 3D printing can fill the gaps left by consumer medical products while lowering expenses. Instead of paying a lab to build prosthetics or implants, clinics can use advanced 3D printers to make their own items. Patients should expect this approach to save them money while providing much-needed interventions faster.
Healthcare Providers Fight Against Drug-Resistant Illness
Antibiotic-resistant infections contribute to nearly 3 million deaths in the United States each year. Antibiotics and other medications have saved countless lives, but they have also encouraged viruses, bacteria, and fungi to evolve quickly. As a result, some illnesses no longer respond to standard treatments.
Healthcare researchers and providers are fighting drug-resistant strains to improve treatment outcomes. In some cases, making sure that patients take the full course of their antibiotic prescriptions can help. In other cases, effective treatment can require more aggressive options, such as moving patients into quarantined environments while they recover.
Improved Access to Mental Health Services
Recent data show that more than 10 percent of adults with mental illness in the U.S. do not have health insurance. As a result, many people cannot afford the mental health services they need to avoid complications and worsening conditions.
Behavioral health integration, which adds mental health to standard healthcare services, is one part of the solution. Other options include the emergence of for-profit mental health providers that work remotely with patients. These companies have lower overheads, so they can charge more affordable prices even when patients do not have health insurance.
Movement Toward Patient Consumerization
A growing number of people rely less on their physicians to provide information about their healthcare. Instead, they try to educate themselves so they can make informed, affordable decisions. Global health trends toward patient consumerization might not sound like positive changes. In reality, they could democratize more aspects of healthcare by conforming to patient expectations and demands. Instead of going to the doctor for every ailment, office visits become reserved for more serious concerns and annual wellness exams. More minor issues can find resolution through alternative methods that consumers find more appealing, affordable, and convenient.
A Step Closer to Healthcare Equity
Perhaps most importantly, there are global health trends toward health equity. In addition to growing calls for universal health coverage, entities like the World Health Organization (WHO) are working to remove barriers that prevent people in rural and remote areas from accessing healthcare. Organizations are also researching ways to improve access for people living with disabilities, living in disadvantaged urban communities, and people with work schedules that make regular office visits difficult.
The world still has much work to do before it comes close to solving this problem. However, establishing the need for broader healthcare availability creates the foundation for taking the initial steps toward healthcare equity.