Four trends that will transform healthcare in 2017

In the next 15 years alone, the worldwide population of individuals aged 65 and older is projected to increase more than 60%, from 617 million to about 1 billion. That leads us to beg the question: How can we ensure a high quality of care for our growing aging population while keeping healthcare costs under control?

The answer is simple, thanks to technological advances - by revolutionising technologies within the healthcare system, we can increase efficiency, reduce waste, minimize error, speed up turnaround and improve patient outcomes. Read on to discover 4 of the main trends in 2017 that will accommodate these growing demands.

Telehealth


Telehealth is one of the most important innovations within the healthcare industry. It allows patients and specialists remote access to each other and provides the ability to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients from a distance.

Thanks to the Telehealth Advancement Act 2011 (TAA) in 2012, telemedicine (now more accurately referred to as telehealth) was able to move beyond live video communications. This change in legislation prompted the birth of more streamlined medical approval processes with a broader spectrum of applications. And Telehealth technologies aren’t stopping here, as remote treatment options continue to develop across the globe.

This service not only allows patients’ personal specialists to monitor their health, but it also grants health care professionals the capacity to develop virtual partnerships with urban and specialist healthcare sites.

Although each telemedicine technology varies in its purpose and capabilities, many of them are able to monitor the heart automatically and transmit information wirelessly to a remote center. To find out more about the advancements in telemedicine, the global summit will be held on May 2017 in Chicago.

Brain-computer interfaces


As one of the fastest-growing fields in applications systems, brain-computer interface technology is contributing significantly to breakthroughs within the healthcare industry, including prevention, detection, diagnosis, rehabilitation and restoration.

Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) work to build a direct communication pathway between brain and external device. These technologies are often designed to assist, augment and repair human cognitive or sensory-motor functions. BCI systems measure specific features of brain activity and translate them into control signals that drive an output.

Existing examples include cochlear implants and pacemakers, while applications being developed include retinal implants (to restore sight) and spinal cord stimulators (for pain relief).

BCI systems can record brain waves and send them to a computer system. The transmitted waves are then used to express an idea or control an object - thus building a communication bridge between the brain and the external world, making the need for typical delivery methods (which can be much less informative) less necessary. The ability to retrieve thoughts or commands in this way will provide the severely disabled with a way to share and record their thoughts.

Wearables


Tracking diet and fitness from your iPhone will soon be a thing of the past, with health monitoring taking over. Current devices already allow users to monitor their heart rates, blood pressure, stress and sleeping patterns on a mobile and daily basis.

Not only does this benefit the individual user in helping them to recognise concerns and measure progress, but it also aids healthcare professionals in that these results can produce reliable and informative insights into their patients’ day-to-day health.

Wearable advances to look out for in 2017 include wearable vital sign monitors for newborns in developing countries, smartwatches that double as blood pressure monitors, smartphone controlled hearing aids, and more.

Human Augmentation


Advancements are continuously being made in human augmentation. When we sense information, we process it and then act upon it - and technology can augment the process at any point throughout that loop.

This technology is now moving toward not just replacing lost vision or hearing, but enhancing it. A great example of this is Dopper Labs’ Here One earplug. This product filters unwanted sounds and enhances that in which we want to hear.

The robotics of prosthetics are also advancing, meaning they more comfortable and functional for the user. An example of the work already done in this field earlier in 2016 is Hugh Herr’s who wants nothing less than end disability in restoring full and natural limb function to those who have lost theirs.

The researchers involved are developing prosthetic legs, including fully functioning ankles and knees, that rely on motors along with sensors to mimic human motion. Herr’s own self-designed motorized bionic legs adjust 500 times a second for angle, stiffness and torque.

While many of these advances seem like the stuff on science fiction fantasy, looking at how far we’ve come already in the world of biotechnology suggests that we may be closer than we think!

What do you think the most important advance to healthcare technology has been? For more information and insights on healthcare trends, join the discussion on our LinkedIn page.