As the saying goes, the only thing constant is change. Digital business transformation is driving the adoption of many new technologies, such as Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, and Blockchain.
PwC Global recently published a study on the eight major technology trends to watch out for. They surveyed several CEOs of major US companies and explored over 150 existing or emerging technologies around the world in various industries. Eight trends stood out and have already started to revolutionize our daily lives and are likely to significantly impact business on a global scale. These trends include:
Starting with healthcare, I would like to walk you through each of these technologies and suggest how each of these emerging technologies could be applied.
Internet of Things
Citrix has been very active in developing Workspace IoT solutions for the healthcare space. These solutions include: Workspace Hub, Smart Spaces, and Open Space. Citrix’s very own VP & Technical Fellow, Chris Fleck, recently attended the HIMSS conference and demonstrated the Citrix Workspace Hub for Healthcare in a healthcare innovation setting, showing how caregivers can move rapidly from room to room without log-on time and automatically update records such as patient and provider names. Inside a patient room, the Hub not only displays the emergency medical record (EMR) app but can collect temperature via Bluetooth and forward the data to the EMR app.
The Workspace Hub is a device with unique software that extends Citrix app delivery and functionality for improving digital workflows. In a healthcare setting, that can mean collecting data like vitals, reviewing EMR apps and moving frequently between mobile devices and workstations like thin clients.
Robots are great at performing repetitive tasks with a high degree of precision and reliability. There are many use cases for robotics in healthcare ranging from microsurgery to inventory management to even telepresence hospital rounds checking on patients.
The da Vinci Surgical System is used to stitch a grape back together. The same technology that can be used to suture a tiny grape is designed to help perform delicate, minimally invasive surgery.
I am expecting the use of robotics in healthcare to drastically increase over the next several years.
Drones are defined as any unmanned aircraft, ship, or (dare I say) vehicle that can navigate autonomously, without human control or beyond line of sight. There is no doubt that driverless vehicles will disrupt the ambulance market. Drones may also be used to expedite medical trauma response times and/or supplies.
Each year nearly a million people in Europe suffer from a cardiac arrest. A mere 8% survive due to slow response times of emergency services. The ambulance-drone is capable of saving lives with an integrated defibrillator. The goal is to improve existing emergency infrastructure with a network of drones. This new type of drones can go over 100 km/h and reaches its destination within 1 minute, which increases chance of survival from 8% to 80%! This drone folds up and becomes a toolbox for all kind of emergency supplies. Future implementations will also serve other use cases such as drowning, diabetes, respiratory issues and traumas.
I was first introduced to 3D printing for humans by my dentist who offered to print me a temporary crown for my tooth. I have since learned that experts have developed 3D printed skin for burn victims and airway splints for babies with tracheobronchomalacia, which makes the tiny airways around the lungs prone to collapsing. Scientists at Princeton University have even used 3D printing tools to create a bionic ear that can hear radio frequencies far beyond the range of normal human capability, in a project to explore the feasibility of combining electronics with tissue.
But medical 3D printing is not just for the most serious medical issues. In fact, it might become a part of mainstream medical practice to treat a wide range of people. 3D-printed ankle replacements, 3D-printed casts, and 3D-printed pills have all been developed in the past couple of years, with encouraging success rates. The 3D printed cast, for example, heals bones 40–80% faster than traditional casts. 3D printed pills allow for interesting new pill shapes that completely alter the drugs’ release rates. Another team of researchers found that it is possible to print patient-specific, biodegradable implants to more effectively cure bone infections and bone cancer.
I recently wrote a Citrix article entitled “Welcome to Healthcare 2.0“. It was an experimental exercise to determine what happens when you combine Citrix Octoblu‘s Internet of Things (IoT) platform with the Amazon Echo and Infermedica’s artificial intelligence healthcare diagnosis API? You get something that looks and feels like a next-generation, consumer-friendly, speech-based, “ask-a-doctor” medical application! See below:
Take this idea one step further by having emergency medical record (EMR) systems stream into machine learning or artificial intelligence platforms that can rapidly evaluate large datasets of patient information while spotting trends and anomalies across patients to assist doctors with diagnosis and treatment plans based on the probability of like-patient success rates. We are not talking about replacing doctors but rather arming doctors with automated research and recommendation tools to aid in tailored solutions per patient.
There has been much hype about the blockchain lately predominately related to cryptocurrency such as BitCoin or Ethereum tokens. While this is interesting, Jium Hong explains that the blockchain is basically a distributed database that stores chronologically ordered records called blocks. Blocks are public and are distributed to all users, who are known as nodes. Blockchain-powered distributed databases could be instrumental in solving the following technologies:
- Patient Health Records (PHRs) and Emergency Medical Records (EMRs): Patient records could be stored in a private blockchain that automatically synchronizes to all healthcare facilities and patients (and caretakers) who are granted access via private and public keys. This solution would address the slow (and expensive) process of medical records requests and provide emergency facilities with real-time, up-to-date records to perform emergency procedures on patients as needed.
- Clinical Health Data Exchange and Interoperability: Blockchain could enable data exchange systems that are cryptographically secured and irrevocable. This would enable seamless access to historic and real-time patient data, while eliminating the burden and cost of data reconciliation.
- Claims Adjudication and Billing Management: An estimated 5-10% of healthcare costs are fraudulent, resulting from excessive billing or billing for non-performed services. Blockchain-based systems can provide realistic solutions for minimizing these medical billing-related frauds. By automating the majority of claim adjudication and payment processing activities, blockchain systems could help to eliminate the need for intermediaries and reduce the administrative costs and time for providers and payers.
Here’s a great discussion that elaborates on more use cases of the blockchain in healthcare.
Virtual Reality can be defined as a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet or glassware with a screen inside and/or gloves fitted with sensors.
I believe that virtual reality (VR) is still early but the technology is advancing very quickly. Most VR companies seem to be focusing on entertainment; however, there are a few very interesting VR opportunities in healthcare:
- Virtual Robotic Surgeries: Similar to the da Vinci Surgical System identified above, a human surgeon is controlling a remote operation being performed by a robot. It is becoming a standard procedure, which decreases time, and reduces the risk of complications. Virtual reality has also found its application in educational purposes and in the area of Remote Telesurgery, where the operation is carried out in separate place for the patient. The main idea of this specific system is revealed in a force feedback, where a surgeon can evaluate the amount of pressure to use, when performing delicate action procedures.
- Surgeon Simulation Software for Education: One example of this is the HumanSim system (see below) which enables doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to interact with others in an interactive environment. They engage in training scenarios in which they have to interact with a patient but within a 3D environment only. This is an immersive experience which measures the participant’s emotions, decisions, and technique via a series of sensors.
Augmented Reality (AR) is defined as a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view. If you have played the new Pokemon Go game, you have already experienced AR.
What if Augmented reality could save lives through showing defibrillators nearby?
What if nurses could find veins easier with augmented reality?
Stay tuned for yet another variation on VR and AR called Mixed Reality (MR). Technologies such as the HoloLens are making it possible to interact with 3D models in the real world!
Citrix is very excited about leveraging all of these technologies as they apply to assist our customers and partners with their digital business transformation initiatives as well as their next-generation workspace experience solutions.
We are at the forefront of a very bright and exciting future. Let’s change the world together!