Medicine and technology tend to go hand in hand. New technology drives innovation, and the work that’s been done over the past couple of years in these fields has been extraordinary. We have started to integrate new technologies, such as virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and big data, into the medical sphere, and these recent adoptions are already making positive impacts on people’s lives.
The world of medicine is changing at a rapid pace, which is one of the reasons it’s such an incredible time to be alive. It would probably take an entire afternoon just to scratch the surface of some of the innovations, but I’m excited to share with you a few highlights from the groundbreaking work I’ve seen.
According to the Amputee Coalition, over 2 million people in the United States have lost a limb. Many receive prosthetic limbs, and one of the most exciting innovations is the advent of bionic limbs, which allow certain prosthetic parts to communicate with each other to provide more functionality. As well as enhancing movement, engineers have also been working on an artificial skin to give these limbs a lifelike feeling. This technology could entirely alter the way we think about prosthetics.
2. Mental Health
In a study conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately one in five people has a mental-health problem. Even though these cases can vary in terms of severity, it’s an issue that has plagued society for quite some time. Luckily, there’s new technology designed to combat the scourge of mental illness. From peer-based counseling peer-based to virtual reality firms, the tech world is striving to make mental-health solutions more accessible.
3. Big Data
Big data is a big deal in medicine, not only in its ability to enhance billing and patient communications, but also because of its potential to aid diagnostics. According to a study done by McKinsey, data is currently playing a prominent role in examining the biology of a disease. This industry is already a major player in the medical arena, and is poised to surge.
It’s one of the oldest forms of healing, but acupuncture has some innovations on the way. Kiseok Song, a student at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, has created a way to deliver “smart acupuncture”—a version of the ancient practice that uses electro-acupuncture to provide data on treatment. While the technology is still in development, this could potentially transcend multiple fields of study as a way of healing.
One of the most exciting developments we’ve seen out of the MedTech world is in the field of surgery. According to Stanford Health, over 48 million Americans go under the knife every year, making it one of the most significant medical areas. Because of this, research in the industry is exploding. Researchers are experimenting with robots and AI to help conduct surgeries. They are also looking into the use of virtual reality and augmented reality in the operating theater. These advances are certain to change the way surgery is performed.
6. Cancer Research
In 2016, it was estimated that over 1.6 million people were diagnosed with cancer, with almost 600,000 cases being fatal. Cancer remains one of the medical field’s biggest mysteries, and doctors, engineers and scientists have been searching for a cure. One of the most exciting developments in the past year is the use of technology to discern where cancer is located via a blood sample. While that might not appear significant at first glance, it’s actually a pretty big deal. Looking at where the cancer starts and comparing that to how it has spread can mean the difference between life and death, and can provide insights into what we can improve upon.
Physical therapy is an estimated $30 billion industry, which means that there are a lot of practitioners actively working to help get people back to full form after an injury or illness. The industry has been changing rapidly, and a number of teams are now using VR and motion-sensor technology to improve the process. For example, in 2015, the FDA approved Reflexion Health to introduce an at-home rehabilitation program using Microsoft’s Kinect. When you factor in the large numbers of therapists traveling around to perform in-house treatments, it’s clear that this industry could be in for significant changes.
8. Sports Medicine
The world of sports medicine is worth an estimated $6.4 billion, and with the tech that’s being created, you can expect that number to grow significantly over the next few years. Quite simply, sports-medicine solutions are getting more sophisticated and proactive. For example, companies like Senaptec are using tech to improve accuracy and reaction times, and Physmodo is focusing its efforts on tracking biomechanical movements.
According to the CDC, over 27 percent of the American population is considered obese. That is a staggering statistic, especially when one realizes that obesity is something that can be reversed. That’s why there are numerous startups out there trying to help people manage their weight, diet and eating habits by using smart data to provide a better analysis.
Even though some critics discredit practices like meditation for not being “real medicine,” the evidence suggests otherwise. According to the National Center for Complementary Integrative Health, meditation can have a profound impact on both your mental and physical health. It’s becoming apparent that this is a great alternative to taking medication, and is something you should certainly consider if you experience anxiety. Though technology and meditation may not seem like a likely pairing, apps like Headspace can help you maintain your mental focus while on the go.