Crises have a tendency to motivate us to change if often dramatic ways. A sudden dilemma causes us to stop in our tracks and refocus our attention on the task at hand. When this happens, the potential for something revolutionary to occur increases substantially. Someone with a near-death experience may completely revamp their life’s mission. The same thing can occur on a global scale as well as was the case after World War II. It’s therefore not too far-fetched to think we might be on the edge of a major shift today. Given the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact, we could well be seeing the birth of a healthcare revolution.
Advances in healthcare have been steadily occurring over the course of time. Developments in science, technology, and engineering continually fuel new medical diagnostics and treatments. But the shifts occurring in healthcare currently with COVID-19 are nothing short of astounding. And there are a number of healthcare advances that suggest we are seeing the start of a new healthcare revolution. The pressures of COVID-19 have forced on us some healthcare lessons that have lasting value. And it may be one of the few silver linings to this monster of a pandemic.
“The real wealth of this will be in all of the methods, processes, and frameworks that are being built on the fly that are available to use in other similar types of situations. That is something all health systems can benefit from.” – Neil Gomes, Executive VP for Technology Innovation and Chief Digital Officer, Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health
8 Major Healthcare Advances in the Works
As countries around the globe try to develop a coronavirus vaccine, data sharing and collaboration have become the norm. At the same time, clinical trials are being expedites, and novel approaches are being pursued on a massive scale. And millions of patients have embraced telehealth and other digital technologies in the process. This reflects the healthcare revolution currently underway thanks to COVID-19. And the following are among the most innovative healthcare advances that could completely change the face of medicine.
Telehealth and Remote Technologies
Given the safety concerns about spreading COVID-19, everyone has become more accustomed to videoconferencing. This has naturally fueled the use of telemedicine as of late. In fact, telemedicine healthcare advances are being seen among veterinarians during this pandemic. As a result, a technology that was being met with hesitation is suddenly being embraced on a massive scale. This is one reason why telehealth startups like Ro are receiving massive venture capital funding.
Precision Medicine and Biogenetics
Personalized medicine has already been recognized as a key direction of any healthcare revolution in the future. The healthcare advances in genetic fingerprinting and DNA methylation changes are fueling these trends. COVID-19 has only served to catalyze these trends as providers attempt to identify individual nuances in treatment responses. The learning curve in personalized care with COVID-19 has been a steep one. And the insights gained will encourage similar strategies in other disease areas.
Healthcare Advances in Robotics
It’s no secret that healthcare workers have been in the line of fire during the coronavirus pandemic. And personal protective equipment has at times been in short supply. Thus, one area where healthcare advances are being made are in robotics. Not only are these systems reducing direct exposure of staff to high risk patients. They are also being used by companies like Corindus Vascular Robotics to conduct remote robotic surgeries. This has the potential to be a major healthcare revolution shift in the years to come.
Predictive Analytics and Big Data
Perhaps the least surprising aspect of COVID-19’s impact on healthcare revolution trends involves Big Data. Healthcare advances in this area were already moving forward at warp speed. But organizations like The Cleveland Clinic have been employing predictive analytics to predict trends in the spread of COVID-19 as well as those at higher risk. The application of these data analytic tools in a highly practical setting has similarly accelerated the learning progress.
Mobile Apps and Web Solutions
The use of mobile apps being developed by Apple and Google to help with contact tracing has been well publicized. But other mobile and web innovations are also occurring during this time of pandemic crisis. For example, the CellScope app allows parents to send an image of their child’s ear for remote ear infection diagnoses. Other web platforms offer patients self-diagnostic tools based on complaints. Even the CDC used an AI chatbot in this fashion to assist patients with potential COVID-19 symptoms.
The Promise of 3D Bioprinting
The healthcare advances in 3D bioprinting may be among some of the most exciting that suggests an evolving healthcare revolution. During COVID-19, applications have been used by health systems like Northwell Health to create personal protective equipment. They have also been used to make ventilator parts. But the real innovative applications to come will involve the use of human cells and 3D bioprinting organs. This could be a gamechanger.
Wearable Health Technologies
Also known as biohackers, wearable technologies represent another key area of healthcare advances. Stanford Medicine, Scripps Research and Fitbit all teamed up to explore the use of these devices in detecting COVID-19 early. Combined with the Internet-of-Things, these have the potential to greatly expand healthcare data access, remote monitoring, and self-care. Think of surgical dressings that change color when they need to be reapplied. Or continuous updates about your body’s hydration, electrolytes, glucose, and more.
“We are going to see health systems, especially in technology, that are leaner and more nimble. There will be more acceleration to software-as-a-service, the cloud and artificial intelligence in medicine. We have seen even with the COVID pandemic, an acceleration of telehealth and remote monitoring. Health sensors and wearables will continue to expand in the next five years.” – Kristin Myers Executive VP, CIO and Dean of IT, Mount Sinai Health
Three Keys in Realizing the Healthcare Revolution
The COVID-19 pandemic offers an opportunity to serve as a catalyst for positive change in healthcare. But in order for this to be realized, three key items will be needed to fuel healthcare advances. The first is investments on a global scale. This not only pertains to healthcare organizations but organizations and industries in public and private sectors. Likewise, bold leadership with expansive visionary abilities will similarly be required. And most important, a collaborative effort on a global scale could have a tremendous impact. With every crisis, opportunities exist. And for COVID-19, our opportunity for a real healthcare revolution awaits us.
(COVID-19 has certainly presented the world with a challenge. For more on how some have turned challenges into opportunities, check out Ed Kopko’s book, PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success.)