The current state of the health sector is in flux, possibly more than ever before, due to changing consumer needs and expectations, economic fluctuations, and digital innovation.
While this technological disruption is enabling better treatment, earlier and more accurate diagnoses, and improvements to supply chain management, implementation rates are still slow and uneven. Worldwide, many outdated systems remain in place.
An increasing global population also means it could become harder to reach everyone’s healthcare needs, leading to rising demand for on-demand healthcare and telehealth. Life expectancy is increasing while the demand from the geriatric demographic is simultaneously growing, adding to financial strain, along with staff shortages, increased costs of labor, and prolongment of chronic diseases.
Data, behavioral science, and digital technologies such as IoT and AR/VR are increasing the potential to reach and understand more people, better meeting their healthcare needs and improving the overall healthcare ecosystem.
Recent years have seen incredible technological innovation, which has the power to really transform and shape the future of the health sector. Here are five of the most exciting current innovations in digital health.
1. AR surgery systems
The use of VR and AR for training purposes has been growing over the last decade, across a number of industries.
The Amsterdam Skills Centre has been at the forefront of drastically cutting the time it takes to train surgeons by applying virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and other cutting-edge technologies.
US-based company Augmedics has taken things a step further with xvision, an augmented reality system to assist with real-time precision in spinal surgery.
Around 31% of freehand surgeries are completed in a less than perfect manner, with inaccurate positioning of screws, which then leads to neurological complications and the need for reoperations to correct it. The xvision technology helps to solve this by reducing room for error thereby minimizing further complications.
With the xvision system, surgeons wear an AR headset that gives them X-ray-like vision: they can essentially look through tissue and see a 3D visualization of the patient’s anatomy. With a built-in tracking system that superimposes the navigation of the surgical tools over the patient’s CT scan, surgeons can watch their actions in real-time, greatly improving their accuracy.
2. Biofeedback APIs
According to a 2020 Deloitte report on the outlook of global healthcare: “Lifestyle-related factors including smoking, poor diet, hypertension, obesity, and lack of physical activity contribute to many of the top 10 global causes of death.” In fact, 80% of the impact on people’s health is as a result of their environment, lifestyle, and socioeconomic status.
Health wearables are becoming a key tool in the fight against lifestyle diseases, as they can monitor the impact of specific activities such as quality of sleep, number of daily steps, distance traveled, and calories burned.
While these functions rely on the user purchasing an additional wearable, Amsterdam-based Happitech has developed a program that can monitor heart rate and detect any rhythmic anomalies through the user’s smartphone, providing a real-time feedback loop without the need for an additional add-on.