Digital Trend Alert
Quantum Leaps in Healthcare: Shifts and Changes 2021 and Beyond
Carol Ingley, President, Media Mogul Enterprises
Week of March 29, 2021 through Week of April 26, 2021
Digital Trends: technology, biotechnology, bioengineering, artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, cloud computing
Size of Healthcare Industry. One of the largest and fastest-growing industries in the world? That’s the healthcare industry. And the largest employer in the United States? That’s the healthcare industry, too. Revenue for this industry globally in 2018 was about $1.853 trillion and other estimates suggest it is much larger. It’s sheer size isn’t the big news now, though. The big news is how many changes are coming that will benefit us all.
Recent Shifts in Healthcare. The vaccines arrived for Covid-19 and have been widely distributed. This happened quickly for a vaccine roll-out because a new area in health care, biotechnology, is game-changing.
Biotechnology that can roll-out vaccines in record time had already been developed at the time the pandemic began. The biotechnology that was used was the ability to create mRNA sequences that cells recognize.
These mRNA sequences are recognized as though our own body created them. They operate as an “on” button to the cells to produce one or more proteins that give the body the ability to fight a certain disease, in this case Covid-19. This is quite different from the traditional vaccine where a weakened or inactivated germ is injected into the body, which triggers an immune response.
The major point here is how quickly a vaccine can be designed and implemented with biotechnology. But there’s much more than biotechnology that’s happening in the healthcare industry -- which will change everything by leaps and bounds.
Key Areas of Growth in Healthcare. Key areas of growth in healthcare from 2021 through this decade include technology, artificial intelligence/machine learning, biotechnology and bioengineering, big data and cloud computing.
Technology and the Future of Healthcare. Consumer technology is already changing how we monitor our bodies and will continue to change over the next ten years. Fitbit and Apple Watch have led the way in health monitoring but it’s the tip of the iceberg.
Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, thinks health may be Apple’s “greatest contribution to mankind.” Apple is a lifestyle company, not just a device company, and it sees big changes coming for the individual and health.
The most health-centered device produced by Apple is the Apple Watch. Apple Watch has a wide variety of health-oriented features including heart rate monitoring, fall detection alerts, activity tracking among others. Of course, one can use the Apple Watch to check e-mail or surf the web but its strength is the health-related tools available.
Three big tech companies to watch in the healthcare area include Apple, Amazon, and Alphabet.
Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning and the Future of Healthcare. Healthcare has used artificial intelligence (AI) extensively in the form of natural language processing or NLP. NLP focuses on the interaction between computers and human language. It is used to process and analyze large amounts of data. And there’s lots of data in healthcare: published research and clinical records are two big areas.
There’s excitement around another subset of AI: machine learning (ML). ML has become widely accepted via such virtual assistants as Alexa and Siri. These assistants learn from the user and can provide better responses over time.
The ability for ML to increase the accuracy of disease detection is one of the areas that is set to grow. This type of AI can read scans and detect abnormalities with a better accuracy at times than medical professionals. Early detection and early treatment are two ways that ML can change the landscape of the medical field, not to mention the reduction of costs.
Biotechnology/Bioengineering and the Future of Healthcare. Biotechnology is the use of biological systems to develop drugs and other products. DNA splicing is an example of biotechnology. The design and manufacture of artificial limbs? That’s bioengineering.
Biotechnology is at the beginning of its potential. Its greatest contribution will likely be personalized medicine.
Personalized medicine will change the medical experience but it is only starting. We have already seen biotechnology’s impact on the Covid-19 vaccine and the ability to develop and distribute it quickly. Another area that biotechnology is evolving is the diagnosis of diseases due to genetic factors.
Bioengineering is all about creating products that are useable. Bioengineered products include artificial hips and knees, medical engineering techniques (ultrasound and MRI are examples) as well as engineered organisms.
Big Data and the Future of Healthcare. There’s a lot to track in the healthcare industry: tests, patient diagnoses, results of check-ups, medical prescriptions, and patient histories, to name a few of the data areas. The healthcare industry has begun the move into big data. Ultimately, all important medical data will be easily accessible.
There’s money to be saved as well. McKinsey & Company’s research indicated that more than $300 billion can be saved by consumers in the U.S. by big data usage. The two big areas, then, that will be impacted by big data are health tracking and cost reduction.
Cloud Computing and the Future of Healthcare. The pandemic changed the digital habits of Americans and across the globe. Healthcare was one industry greatly impacted by cloud computing. In the mad scramble to save lives, the cloud became vital. Collecting data, sharing data and general communication via the cloud was a lifeline.
A year, however, does not make for major changes. It will take some time for the healthcare industry to figure out how to leverage all of the capabilities that cloud computing offers. So many issues need to be weighed, analyzed, solved and then implemented including cybersecurity, legal issues and the possibility of downtime.
Quantum Changes. The digitization of healthcare was accelerated during the pandemic. Many more changes are coming. Most will agree – the healthcare industry is headed toward a more personalized experience, a more efficient experience and possibly a less costly one. We are headed toward radical change. In the end, we should all benefit.
Carol Ingley is a marketing and finance consultant as well as a futurist and technologist. She is president of Media Mogul Enterprises.
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