Image Credit: GovInsider
Article Authors: Gordon Slater| Tandose Sambo
Keep your vitality. A life without health is like a river without water. Maxime Lagacé
With the changes induced in 2020 by the pandemic, we find ourselves in a state that’s innately aware that digital operations are the wave of the future. All aspects of our lives are influenced by technology, and healthcare is actually one of those sectors that is benefitting immensely from the inclusion of technology into the current treatment and diagnosis strategies.
The Industry 4.0 is a revolution that is currently being experienced in industry. This technology encompasses fields such as AI, the Internet of Things, 5G and other computer technologies that enable real-time information to be accessible for business decision making. From a civilian perspective, with AI you can get directions from your GPS system and you can get answers from your Alexa system.
Within the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, there is an emerging realization that the right technology can impact the ability for suitable healing therapies to be administered. One critical example is in the process of implementing a clinical trial. The improvements of clinical trials with Industry 4.0 tools is highlighted below:
CLINICAL TRIAL OPTIMIZATION
With the current state of the drug development cycles, industry experts have identified that one way to keep innovating and developing products that will be lucrative will be to focus on optimization of the clinical trial process. As an interesting design project, clinical trials have standard components that are critical to their success. A deep dive into each of the critical stages will determine where the bottlenecks are. With an identification of the limiting factors, the solution and optimization of the process will be possible. With the advent of the digital age, the transformation process will rely on computing technology to propel the process forward. These digital waves include the internet, which can do things like harness the computing power of computer networks. Social media can assist the research process by facilitating the process of interviewing the target market. Data access via tools like applications (Fitbits and similar technologies) will enable data mining and trend identification. The advent of data access is a disruptive force in the medical industry. Where there is data, there will be the ability for individuals to access critical health trends. From these trends the appropriate solutions in the form of a drug or natural product will be the key to the need.
Once the power of digital technologies is harnessed, the transformation of the drug development process will be facilitated. With the appropriate models, there will be the ability for an organization to forecast various aspects of the drug development process. The disruption of the existing business operating models, will drive the ability for organizations to improve their R&D productivity. The areas of impact will include:
Automation of Processes: With the drug development process, one of the keys to ensuring success in the final stages and even during the pilot stages, is appropriate replication of the manufacturing of the product. Quality management is key to the success of any pharmaceutical product. Process automation is the key to facilitating this outcome.
Data Sets: Data is the new gold. It takes a multitude of steps to synthesize a drug. Thankfully, with the advent of computer technologies, molecular models can be converted into mathematical models, and the pathway for target drugs that will match the desired active sites of their target proteins will be better optimized. Many times during drug development processes, the chemists will synthesize then test, but with the advent of computer simulations, there will be a means by which the mechanism of action and even success can be predetermined, before money is expended on physical synthesis. Predictive analytics is the key to success in the current state of events. The vision will be a deciding factor in the drug development process.
With this introduction, the evidence that the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries will benefit from Industry 4.0 is becoming apparent. A new and exciting wave of healthcare is emerging. Here are a few additional ways that Industry 4.0 will change the way you are treated as a patient in the future.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND MACHINE LEARNING
Artificial Intelligence (AI) involves the utilization of smart machines that “learn” via the utilization of logic driven algorithms. Computers have the ability to process vast amounts of data, and from the correlations in the data, critical conclusions can be reached. AI can process images, and can be used in the identification of health conditions from image data like X-rays. With the fusion of AI will medical imaging technology, doctors are now able to treat conditions with increased accuracy. AI has the ability to scan thousands of images, and verify conditions.
For health data management, wearable devices will be the key to tracking the stability of critical health parameters. Clinical trials can be effectively carried out, and data collated over a longer period of time. From the collated data, AI can identify critical trends, and with increased confidence be able to find any abnormality in the patients health patterns. Real time health data will be able to identify conditions that often are undetected by a test, or even via a doctors visit.
AI tools not only help with the identification of health conditions, they also are able to impact how hospitals are able to organize their resources. Decisions with respect to how many beds to allocate to a wing, or how many medical imaging devices to purchase can be determined from the patient data being generated. Staffing and rostering of critical staff will ensure that the hospital is able to meet the needs of the patients as they are admitted.
WEARABLES AND SENSORS
Wearables such as the Fitbit and its equivalent, and your healthcare apps on your smartphone, will make a difference to your overall health. With an app, you will become more accountable for your health because you are able to track your progress per unit time. If your healthcare practitioner has a specific tool that they utilize, you can link to the system and ensure that you are being constantly monitored, wherever you are. Telemedicine is the phenomena that emerged from the availability of wearables devices. The future vision with wearables, is to enable only critical healthcare treatments to be facilitated by the doctor, and your recovery be off site if possible. If you are able to be monitored from a distance, according to your vital signs, you may not need to return to the site for a check up. For patients who are in rural areas, the ability to communicate with your doctor will be critical to your ability to remain healthy.
With telemedicine, the hospital system will be able to cater to only the patients with severe conditions. With a current pandemic situation such as COVID-19, it will be important for hospitals to improve their triage systems in order to ensure that only the critical cases are attended to. Anything else will not be considered an urgent matter.
ROBOTICS IN THE HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY
Medical robotics is an emerging aspect of the medical industry that is one day going to be part of your therapy if you ever need foot and ankle surgery of any kind. Medical robotics is here to aid the human personnel who will attend to your health needs. Where human medical personnel lack eg. in terms of fatigue or accuracy, the robots will be able to complement them. As a service that will aid highly skilled individuals such as doctors, many patients can expect to see benefits such as faster recovery times, and smaller incision points to the surgery site.
With a variety of robots that attend to everything from taking samples, disinfecting rooms, and also attending to patients, autonomous robots will soon be a standard in many operating rooms, including your orthopaedic surgeon’s operating room. At most, under the current condition artificial intelligence and computers do things like scan patients’ pulse and critical vital signs.
Evolving now are doctor controlled robots that are assisting in surgeries and minimally invasive procedures. The advantages to be gained from robots include:
- Better diagnostics
- Safer less invasive surgery
- Shorter waiting times
- Reduced infection rates
- Increased long-term survival rates for everyone
With the benefits outweighing any seeming fears, one system to be aware of is the daVinci system. This robot has prevalence in the field of orthopaedics, so in those instances where you may require a robot to help you heal via a minimally invasive surgery. Let us delve into the mechanisms of the robot. As the most prevalent surgical robot, your odds of encountering this system is the highest in the field.
As a starting disclaimer, an app is best used as a guide to your body’s operational activities. It is not intended to replace any doctor’s visits. It is actually intended to even assist in the discussion with your specialists, when you go into the office for a consultation. Apps that you utilize:
- Must be compliant with the healthcare system’s abiding laws. Depending on your region, in your research process, you can go through the process of identifying the key regional bodies that set the mandate for healthcare in the region, and enquire if the app is compliant with that system. If yes, you can download the app with assurance. If not, you are better off either not downloading that app, or utilizing extra caution in the process of using the app.
- Seek the recommendation of other patients. Studies have shown that only 2% of healthcare apps are being utilized by patients. Research into why this is so, tends to identify root causes such as the patients thought the app was too complicated to use on a daily basis. Additionally, patients were under the impression that if their vital signs were barely changing, why would they have to keep checking them every day. With root causes like this, the pool of health care app innovators is realizing that they need to make the tools more appealing to the customer base. There are some apps that have high acclaim, so just ensure that when you are purchasing, you seek the ratings of other users who have tested the product before.
- Decide what type of medical app you are going to download. In the application realm, the medical apps have been classified to be in one of four main categories: Diagnosis chatbots, Mobile medication alerts, Phone-to-text capabilities, Geolocation or geofencing. The apps are then designed to provide features like clinical assistance – and will enable you to access your medical records, laboratory results and charts, as well as to check your symptoms. These act like assistants to your doctor as your final conditions are being diagnosed. Scheduling and reminder apps will help you to stay on top of your appointments and your medicine intake. Health and lifestyle apps will help you to track your vital signs and ensure that you are on top of your diet and general fitness. Knowing what you’ll need, will help to guide you as you decide what you want to do.
With these features, you are now competent enough to start doing your due diligence. With the advent of the internet, you can now take the time to determine what options will work best for you. Health is your wealth, and taking the time each week to look after yourself, and ensure that you are well is critical to ensuring that you are the best version of yourself.
With medical devices and applications, Industry 4.0 is well on its way to ensuring that we are living at peak. Imagine a world, where your smart home will be linked to your smart phone or watch, which then is linked to your baseline health tracking. All of these systems will then be in a position to determine when your next doctor’s appointments should be, and even find a slot in your schedule to ensure that you can have your check up.
Medium.com: How is Industry 4.0 Affecting Healthcare