“Digital technology, pervasively, is getting embedded in every place: every thing, every person, every walk of life is being fundamentally shaped by digital technology — it is happening in our homes, our work, our places of entertainment. It’s amazing to think of a world as a computer. I think that’s the right metaphor for us as we go forward.
– Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft
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.
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.
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!