(by Andres Rojas)
Thankfully for patients, 2021 has seen a steady run of improvements – but also challenges – in healthcare tech. Whether it’s telemedicine, smart pills, or diagnostic-empowering wearables, here are 3 ways technology is changing healthcare in 2021.
AI Is Powering Coronavirus Screenings
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a lot of shortcomings in our health system – particularly, how long image analysis can take.
Although Computed Tomography (CT) scans can create detailed images in a matter of minutes, how fast the results are delivered will depend on whether there’s a radiographer at hand. In states of emergency (like with the deadly Delta variant becoming the most prevalent), every minute is needed to maximize a patient’s chances and prevent further contagion.
To save time – and more importantly, lives – many hospitals are looking to automate their image analysis using Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology.
According to Imaging COVID-19, a project working with multiple hospitals across Europe, AI can analyze in 10 seconds what could take a human up to 15 minutes. Such results aren’t unique, though, because Microsoft’s Project InnerEye has also found that AI can make radiotherapy planning 13 times faster.
AI can swiftly pinpoint pneumonia patterns that are typical of COVID-19. However, it still hasn’t advanced enough to remove human technicians from the picture. But even if it’s only used as a supplementary tool, AI-powered CT analysis is already helping plug the gap left by the ongoing radiographer shortage.
IoMT Devices Are Painting a Clearer Picture of Our Health
In recent years, technology is not just around us but actually becoming a part of us.
Enter the Internet of Things (IoT), a term that includes everyday appliances – such as fridges or house lights – which are connected to the internet. IoT devices make our life simpler, allowing us (for example) to turn off a light we forgot or preheat your oven from our office.
Likewise, Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) refers to health tech devices that use sensors to monitor our vital signs and relay the data they collect to our doctor. IoMT devices can, for example, alert a doctor that his patient is having a heart attack or is showing irregular respiratory patterns.
IoMT devices even include “smart pills” with sensors that, once swallowed, can transmit data to other devices. As the IoT market continues to grow, the healthcare industry will become increasingly reliant on it to get accurate, real-time diagnoses of their patients.
Cyberattacks Are on the Rise
Not everything is good news, though.
As the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack showed in dramatic fashion, cybercriminals are both becoming more powerful and increasing the scope of their attacks. The healthcare industry especially, is an attractive target for cybercriminals.
With remote work, telemedicine, and the IoMT increasing the number of endpoints in a hospital’s network, hackers are exploiting these weak points to steal their patients’ sensitive data. A recent IBM report showed that the average healthcare breach can cost an average of $9.23 million per incident.
More dangerously, though, cyberattacks can have life-threatening consequences for patients – as the recent ransomware attack on Eskenazi Hospital, which forced them to redirect ambulances to other hospitals, showed.
These attacks have highlighted the poor state of healthcare cybersecurity and the need to come up with a technological solution that doesn’t compromise the quality of care that a health organization provides.
Cutting off external emails, setting stronger firewalls, and increasing staff education about phishing links can all help reduce attacks. However, one of the most promising solutions involves using Blockchain technology to encrypt and share patients’ records between different hospitals and healthcare professionals.
Healthcare Tech Will Keep Making Our Lives Safer
Whether it’s speeding up diagnoses, automating administrative tasks, or powering the design of new drugs, technology is changing everything we know about the healthcare industry. So make sure you stay informed about the latest ehealth developments, and if you need help insuring yourself against the unexpected, you know what to do.