MEDICAL RESEARCH INNOVATIONS 2020: ORGAN-ON-A-CHIP, BLOCKCHAIN AND QUANTUM COMPUTING

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Linda C. Lombardi, PhD, chief strategy officer and chief experience officer at NYC Health + Hospitals | Bellevue: “Adopting a continuous learning mindset is and will continue to be needed to adjust to the changing healthcare landscape. Staff will need to possess and continually refine competencies in IT in order to contribute and compete. For our patients, who will be expected to handle more self-care through IT capabilities, the need to develop comfort with wearables and using self-monitoring, AI and care management will be essential. In short, the biggest challenge facing healthcare will be in embracing the embeddedness of IT in all facets of the health care and the delivery system.”

2020 is an exciting time to be in the medical innovation realm. With the first two quarters of the year (and hopefully a pandemic) behind us, there is still plenty that we can do in the rest of 2020 that will enable us to accomplish our goals. As half of the year has wound to a close, the good news we can think about is that medical research innovation is still evolving and is not about to slow down any time soon. Innovation experts do predict that in the next five years, we can expect to have a more rapid proliferation of Industry 4.0 technologies, and their utilization in areas such as medical care. As sensors and data analytics are more prevalent, smarter hospitals will grow and evolve into data processing facilities that will make medical process decisions. 

Studies have shown that the medical industry is one of the industries that still has plenty of room for improvement in the Industry 4.0 initiatives. It is up to the current medical managers to ensure that they are aware of how these tools in industry 4.0 will benefit the medical field, and how they will pave the way for the future of medical process automation and the new quality movement. Everything takes time, and with the current state of the world, more caution will have to be factored into the process before we can charge forth and install sensors everywhere and expect that data will save us from our health woes. 

Everything will take a little bit of time, so we will have to allow ourselves to evolve into the medical industry that we want to be. 2020 is still a year that will enable visions to unfold. As a year that was initially predicted to facilitate the expansion of new and enhancing technologies, we can expect that the industry will advance to fulfill its potential. 

Medical innovators then, must open their minds and their creativity to seeing how they can apply innovation to their operating platforms. The current process is just the current process. It can always change with the right actions. 

From an operational perspective, medical engineers must be keen to study the current system best practices in the industrial evolution, and then implement these best practices into health operations. How can you factor in the ability to save time, resources and also satisfy the customer? Here’s some best practices that can help us  in the current new decade. 

What is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is an emerging global phenomenon that is changing the way that all industries are operating in the current decade and beyond. Essentially, all industries are in a position where they cannot ignore technology and its various aspects, be it cloud computing, 3-D printing, internet of things, location technology or even big data analysis. In every system, there will be an application for each element of the industry 4.0 portfolio, in the optimization of process systems operations, and patient satisfaction. 

In the research realm, Big Data in conjunction with artificial intelligence and even detailed and advanced statistical modelling, will be key assets in the progression of the success of R&D efforts. As digital technology advances, it is always a good idea to welcome the change, and allow for industrial transformation for the better. When it comes to three technologies that can facilitate medical innovation, Organ-On-A-Chip, Blockchain and Quantum Computing will help in that regard. This article will take the time to dissect the different elements, and enable the viewership to visualize what is to come in the years and even months ahead in terms of patient care: 

Organ-On-A-Chip: In a previous blog article, it was indicated that clinical trial success is at a low. To optimize the research process, we will need to strengthen the success of the pre-clinical phase of the research process. During clinical trials, what will be key is the ability to gauge critical parameters such as potential efficacy, general safety and toxicity of a drug, before it is administered to patients. 

In previous generations, animals were used to simulate humans, but studies have shown that there is often no direct correlation between the two. Research alternatives such as human cells, also didn’t achieve the desired objectives because they are not representative of the organs and their functions in a human body. How else then, could scientists actually simulate the internal experience? 

This is the advent of the Organ-On-A-Chip methodology. Via techniques such as photolithography, organ simulations on a silicon chip can be re-created. In research studies, elements such as artificial livers have been created, facilitating viable active sites for the testing of drugs in the renal system. Additional research on areas such as the lungs, kidneys and even the gut have been developed. With improved internal replication, improved pre-clinical trials can be facilitated, enabling the odds of appropriate drugs to be synthesized for a chosen condition. 

Blockchain Technology: 

As a distributed, public ledger of information linked in a peer-to-peer network of computers blockchain technology is key to healthcare data processing. Blockchain technology has various advantages including: decentralized management, immutable audit trail, data provenance, robustness, and improved security and privacy. 

Technically, a blockchain consists of ordered records. These are organized in an array, resembling that of a block. Each data block has a unique identifier that enables it to be traced. With this identifier, the history of transactions that the data block is involved in, can be tracked. Block connection is facilitated in a sequential fashion, and the resulting technology then derives its name. The beauty of blockchain technology is that connected blocks of data make it difficult to modify data in part of a sequence without modifying the entire block. 

The immutability of data, the phenomenon described above, is expected to improve patient care, by improving the current state of medical record management. From a peripheral perspective, organizations such as insurance companies that are linked to the hospital, can optimize their insurance claim process. Within the medical entities themselves, inhouse clinical and biomedical research can be accelerated. 

Quantum Computing 

Computers are a central theme in Industry 4.0. Many details in medical research require the use of computing technology in order to solve critical problems. Quantum computing is a technology that assists with solving very detailed mathematical calculations in various realms. Within the medical realm for instance, many computers have been looped together in order to assist with predicting things like the human genome. 

Quantum computing is a high powered computing technology that utilizes background algorithms such as linear algebra, to solve the mathematical representations of a critical topic. With the ability to complex problems due to the increased computing power, can solve multiple problems simultaneously, compared to conventional computers that can solve problems in a linear and sequential fashion. On a scale level, quantum computers solve detailed problems in a matter of weeks. 

Healthcare will benefit immensely from the improvements described above! 

Reference: 

  1. ICONS: https://pages.questexweb.com/rs/294-MQF-056/images/ICON%20Digital%20Disruption%20Whitepaper.pdf

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Dr. Gordon Slater

Dr. Slater is one of the first foot and ankle surgeons in Australia to adopt minimally invasive surgical techniques. He routinely uses MIS to treat a range of conditions, including bunions.

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Dr Gordon Slater is a highly-skilled surgeon specialising in foot and ankle conditions and sports injuries. Dr Slater is one of the first foot and ankle surgeons in Australia to adopt minimally invasive surgical techniques. He routinely uses MIS to treat a range of conditions, including bunions. MIS  has many advantages including shorter operating times, reduced post-operative pain, reduced risk of infection, minimal scarring and better cosmetic outcomes.

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