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Futuristic Healthcare

Futuristic Healthcare

Industry analysts report that the private sector accounts for more than 85 percent of all hospitals, close to 90 percent of doctors, about 70 percent of inpatient care, and about 85 percent of outpatient care. With this private centric scenario, technology has invaded the clinical acumen of the doctors and privacy of the patients. Resultantly, Indian population is facing challenges in healthcare delivery  that range from high costs, significant demand-supply gap vis-a-vis availability of medical professionals including hospital beds, low accessibility of diagnostic services and primary healthcare, low insurance penetration, poor availability of ambulances often resulting in acute delays in immediate treatment leading to fatalities. It is imperative that innovative, affordable and good quality medical technologies are used for the majority of population, to have access to better and most appropriate technologies to match their health needs; this will enable disease prevention, early diagnostics, and effective treatment. Technology is vastly changing the delivery of care, and healthcare organizations have been able to adapt many pieces of hardware and software that are already in use in other industries to help improve delivery of care.

Paradigm shift

Except for trauma, surgery, delivery etc most services can be provided and monitored at home. A software can now automatically send patient and population-level data back to an EMR or other data system to give clinicians a look at daily activity level, recovery progress, muscle usage, etc. providing a wealth of usable data for health systems to improve outcomes.  Until a few years ago, self-operating devices and a centralized databank containing critical health information seemed more like figments of imagination. Robotic medical assistants have been developed to share in these duties, from changing bed linens and translating needs into different languages to delivering food and setting up equipment. Providing a better view, hologram imaging software can show complex internal systems in a more digestible form. In the future — maybe 50 years from now — we will be able to make very complex organs and bones, and very complex tissues,” say many researchers.  A research team at Edinburgh University thinks its artificial red blood cells could be ready for clinical trials within the next two years. From blindness to cancer to lung disease to heart failure, stem cells are being applied in hundreds of clinical trials across the world. Last year, the FDA hit a big milestone when it approved HEMACORD, the first umbilical cord product for use in stem cell transplants.

Digital contact lens  aims to change the course of diabetes management by measuring blood glucose levels from tears.  Smart contact lenses could deliver directions, news, email and weather reports directly to your eyes? Tiny components like LED lights, tiny antennae and special circuits can be embedded into a contact lens. The lens could be used to measure and process information about the user’s health. Creation of Artificial brain or artificial intelligence should not be so far away. We might have been looking for the secret of immortality in the wrong places. Medical technology will not just repair physical disadvantages such as impaired eyesight but will create superhuman powers from having the eyesight of an eagle to having the hearing of a bat. The intelligent surgical knife (iKnife) was developed by Zoltan Takats of Imperial College London and works by using an old technology where an electrical current heats tissue to make incisions with minimal blood loss. With the iKnife, the vaporized smoke is analyzed by a mass spectrometer to detect the chemicals/ malignancy in the sample, real time. This means it can identify whether the tissue is malignant, when the operation is on. Surgeons will love this surgical knife.

Dr Johnson commented that changes in the gut microbes play a pivotal role in the development and progression of obesity and its associated metabolic disorders. Gastrointestinal conditions, such as Crohn disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, microbial imbalance, have been associated with psoriasis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.   The hope is that the enhanced understanding will finally begin to yield results that will improve the management of chronic disorders, autoimmune disease, allergy, and even dental disease in the decades to come. We are also in the midst of a genomic revolution, moving into clinical trials for the detection and treatment of cancers and infectious diseases, fetal screening for chromosomal abnormalities, and molecular diagnosis of unknown diseases. Gene sequencing will become routine and serve as the “standard for infection control, epidemic control, cancer treatment and food safety.” Pharmaco-genomics will allow patient-tailored therapy for a wide range of diseases.

Gene Editing, Gene Therapy, and Stem Cells

Gene editing involves eliminating or replacing an existing, specific DNA sequence, has the potential to treat conditions with an identified molecular pathology. Gene therapy, is  predicted to have role in preventing and treating disease, and also in restoring organ function. The next 20 years could very well bring gene therapies for the treatment of hereditary disorders, such as cystic fibrosis and primary immune-deficiencies; a range of cancers; cardiovascular disease; and other serious and often fatal illnesses.

Current trials are examining the potential for pretreatment of cancer progenitor cells with epigenetic therapies to eliminate resistance to chemotherapeutic agents. A dramatic news of the potential for new therapies came in December 2015 with the announcement by former president Jimmy Carter that he no longer has evidence of active cancer in his brain after treatment with a recently approved immunotherapy for melanoma that had metastasized to his brain. Although immunotherapy has been most investigated as a cancer therapy, research can be expected in other disease states, such as autoimmune disorders. As with genomic therapies, however, potential barriers, such as huge cost, will have to be overcome before treatment will be widely implemented


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