The Coronavirus pandemic transformed healthcare as we know it. As a result, various medical technologies were tested on a massive scale. Below are four scientific and technological breakthroughs that are transforming the future of medicine.
As the Coronavirus pandemic disrupted medical practice, telemedicine became a popular alternative to outpatient visits. Researchers estimate that virtual care visits will rise to more than 1 billion by the end of the year, including 900 million COVID-related visits. Because of the global pandemic, many of telehealth’s regulatory barriers have been removed, making it easier for patients to receive care wherever they are.
There are three main types of telemedicine:
Store-and-forward telemedicine is common in pathology, radiology, and dermatology. It involves sending relevant patient information such as biosignals and medical images to the specialist as needed. This method eliminates the need for in-person visits and helps speed up diagnosis.
Real-time interactive services
Interactive services are used to provide immediate medical support to patients. This type of telemedicine can be delivered online, over the phone, or in urgent cases, through face-to-face visits. The clinician will first review the patient’s medical history and ask questions about presenting symptoms. This is followed by a physical evaluation, similar to those performed during face-to-face appointments.
Also referred to as self-testing or self-monitoring, this method utilizes various technological devices to monitor a patient’s health and clinical signs remotely. This is widely used in the management of chronic illnesses, including asthma, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
In 2021 and beyond, healthcare providers will continue to integrate telehealth services with conventional healthcare. Apart from improving access to primary and urgent care, virtual visits will also be used to improve medical outcomes by strengthening collaboration between patients and specialists, dialysis centers, long-term care facilities, and mental health service providers.
New methods of drug development
Since the onset of the global pandemic, researchers have worked tirelessly to develop new drugs and improve existing ones. The introduction of various Covid-19 vaccines in less than a year was truly a milestone in the history of science. Thanks to regulatory fast-tracking and innovations in medical trials, development became smoother and faster. Conducting virtual trials and paid market research studies also helped advance participation.
In addition, replacing competition with collaboration accelerated testing and development. Several pharmaceutical companies, including Novartis and Gilead, are working together to assess preliminary data and discover new antiviral treatments. And with the FDA launching a new set of guidelines for virtual trials, pharmaceutical manufactures can expect swifter and safer product testing and development.
Nanomedicine refers to the use of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) in an atomic, molecular, or supramolecular scale to advance healthcare.
Thanks to emerging technologies, researchers are discovering new ways to use nanomaterials for the diagnosis, control, monitoring, prevention, and treatment of diseases.
For instance, Swiss startup Anavo leverages nanotechnology to develop innovative wound-healing solutions via tissue bonding. Nanotechnology enables researchers to create safer, better-targeting, regenerative and anti-microbial techniques. These can replace costly biologics in the traditional wound care market, helping both patients and clinicians save time and reduce costs.
Similarly, in partnership with CytImmune Sciences, AstraZeneca has completed clinical trials for gold nanoparticle-based cancer treatment. This type of treatment allows for targeted drug delivery to tumors and may improve outcomes.
With AI, IoT, and Big Data entering the healthcare sector, clinicians need a dependable and lightning-fast internet connection to maximize their benefits. 5G poses a solution. From improving access to care to simplifying data-sharing between healthcare providers, 5G networks could enhance all the critical components of healthcare.
5G-connected sensors and medical devices feature near-zero latency, enabling them to capture and share data nearly in a flash. A powerful, real-time connection can help improve patient monitoring, which will, in turn, result in better medical outcomes.
A high-speed 5G network also allows swift transmission of huge data files of medical imagery, which can elevate access to care. Likewise, 5G can elevate telemedicine by supporting real-time, high-quality video conferencing.
5G is also instrumental in the development of safer, less invasive treatments. 5G-enabled augmented reality can provide relaxing content to critically ill patients, helping reduce pain and anxiety. Likewise, 5G-powered virtual reality apps help advance drug and treatment development by simulating complex medical scenarios. This way, doctors can apply newly acquired techniques without causing harm to patients.
From telehealth to remote monitoring tools, the proliferation of medical technology has brought patient care to new heights. Health systems will need to invest in these technologies to facilitate timely intervention, improve patient outcomes, and stay competitive.