By 2030, 171 million Americans will be living with some form of a chronic condition, putting a lot of pressure on healthcare providers. At the same time, an alarming predicted shortage of over 100,000 physicians raises further questions for the future – how can healthcare keep up with modern medical needs?
The Future of Virtual Care
One of the most popular and fastest-growing technologies, virtual reality stands out in the medical field. Much like how experiences are simulated for games and entertainment value, the same principles of virtual reality technology are applied to real-life training scenarios. MedStar Health, the operator of ten hospitals in the Baltimore-Washington area trains their healthcare workers with support from virtual reality experiences, to prepare staff for emergency room situations. Among radiologists, one study revealed that 93% of physicians who viewed images of arteries through 3D VR technology were more confident in their diagnoses later on.
Expanding further than just for training purposes, even patients have been finding benefits from VR technology tools, particularly mental health patients and their experiences with exposure therapy. Individuals suffering from chronic pain and anxiety also show beneficial results with the use of immersive virtual technologies, helping to reduce levels of pain through its relaxing effects. As a result of these unique uses, the value of VR in healthcare is expected to grow over 30 times, from $8.9 million in 2017 to $285 million by 2022.
AI and Beyond
Artificial intelligence technologies offer diagnostic support for physicians of all kinds. In a survey among healthcare executives AI growth in healthcare facilities is predicted to grow all across the board, with increases in clinical decision support to 59%, population health to 46%, and disease management 42%. Eye diseases like glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy can be caught early, the possibility of strokes, complications from heart disease, and identification of skin cancers faster than a dermatologist alone are possible through AI.
3D printing capabilities within healthcare systems has grown by a massive 3200% from just 3 hospitals in 2010 to 99 hospitals by 2016. Medical-grade 3D printers can create essential tools for highly personalized medical care, from plastic tools to stem cells. Very small organs, known as “organoids” developed from stem-cells help take over for when a patient’s old organ fails by growing inside the body itself. Custom-tailored prosthetics, artificial limbs, and even bones can be built from the ground up, assisting healthcare providers and their patients. Currently in development is a concept known as the polypill. Made possible by 3D printing, this printed pill works with patients suffering from multiple diseases or conditions in mind by holding several drugs at once, each with different release times when necessary. For patients relying on several different medications and prescriptions, the ease of use and convenience of one compact pill can be a game-changer for quality of life and well being.
From 3D printing capabilities to robot-assisted surgery, technology continues to lead the way in healthcare innovation. Take a look at this infographic for more detail on the relationships between technology and medicine and what we can expect for the future of healthcare.
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