With a health care system struggling to be more cost efficient while enhancing and advancing patient care, technology has proven to be a promising solution. Emerging health care technologies are finding their ways into surgical suites, hospitals and homes.
Of the many solutions in development and on the market, some approaches are coming to the forefront.
Robotics – Besides robot-assisted surgery, robots have also been developed that show potential as nurse assistants. In particular, robotics can help move and lift patients. These include whole-body robots (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance, or RIBA) as well as augmented limbs that can be worn (HAL, or Hybrid Assistive Limb).
Virtual Reality – Virtual Reality, using devices like Oculus Rift, is being developed to help medical students gain realistic patient examination experience. VR might also help patients get a visual of what to expect following treatment in a hospital.
Augmented Reality – Augmented Reality is being developed for use in devices such as a digital contact lens (patented by Google) that measures blood glucose and is expected to improve diabetes treatment and management. Microsoft has developed and is testing a Hololens, a combination of virtual reality and augmented reality, for use in health care and other fields.
Artificial and Near-Artificial Intelligence – IBM’s Watson supercomputer has graduated from winning Jeopardy on television to assist in medical oncology decisions. Watson has been shown to lower costs and boost efficiency of diagnoses and treatment.
Artificial Retinas – A tiny NR600 Implant, developed by Nano-Retina, was developed to help restore sight for people with a retinal degenerative disease. The implantable chip, paired with a specially-designed pair of glasses, helps improve the patient’s vision so they can see people and the environment around them.
Prosthetics – Wounded service members and other amputees can benefit from neutrally-controlled prosthetic limbs that are still being tested and perfected. Once chips are implanted, the patient can “tell” the prosthetic what actions to take merely by thinking it.
These are just a few of the technologic advances changing health care. As tech continues to show tremendous potential for improving outcomes and lowering costs, the possibilities seem boundless.