Developments in medical technology are increasing rapidly, and are no longer limited to drugs or medical equipment. Artificial intelligence, 3D printing technology, virtual reality (VR), and big data, which once only appeared in science fiction or movies, are now being used to treat or prevent diseases, leading medical technology into a new era.
Artificial intelligence reduces the burden on medical staff:
Facing birth, old age, sickness, or death, whether of themselves or their relatives and friends, people often require medical diagnoses that can put a heavy workload on medical staff. The burden can often lead to medical staff becoming physically and mentally tired. Rigorous medical procedures are often required on the spot where there is no room for time to be lost. Fortunately, with the rapid development of technology, artificial intelligence has been gradually introduced into the medical industry which can increase efficiency and reduce the strain and burden on medical personnel.
In hospital patient care for example, robots can perform some of the daily tasks of nurses such as dispensing medicine, taking body temperature, drawing blood, cleaning wards, and managing visitor records. Interaction and monitoring of patients at home is also possible. Health status can be monitored and recorded, allowing doctors to more efficiently evaluate the patient’s condition and determine the time needed for follow-up consultation, and allow patients to save time and effort in going back and forth to the hospital.
For surgical treatment procedures, artificial intelligence robots can reduce the pressure on medical staff and allow patients to receive better medical care. Through a robotic controller, which can retrieve the doctor's hand movements, the doctor is able to give surgical instructions to a robotic arm operating inside the human body. This technology makes minimally invasive surgery more precise and efficient.
Other applications for medical robots are not limited by shape and size. For example, if a child accidentally swallows a foreign object such as a battery, a capsule containing a micro robot can be swallowed. After the capsule casing dissolves, the doctor can instruct the robot through radio control to remove the battery and apply medicine if needed.
3D printed human body and devices:
Another promising technology being applied in the medical field is 3D printing technology. It is currently most commonly used in the production of in-vitro medical devices, including medical models in surgery, hearing aids, templates for dental surgery, and prosthetics. 3D printing can create prosthetic limbs that more accurately fit the user's body size, give better user comfort, and have a lower cost and shorter production time than traditional technologies. 3D printing can even make prosthetic limbs, bones and organs. Because the materials used can be absorbed by the body, unlike traditional steel pins which need to be removed by surgery, 3D printed items can save patients from the pain of secondary surgery.
Entering the era of VR and Big Data:
VR technology has also begun to be applied in the medical field. VR can guide patients to more effectively recall or imagine scenes during psychotherapy. Regarded as a "conscious anesthetic", it is allowing burn patients to take their focus off procedures being performed during debridement and dressing changes. Preliminary tests show VR games can reduce pain by as much as 50%. VR allows medical staff to receive virtual training by performing repetitive, precision, surgery procedures using VR, thus improving their skills and increasing the success rate of surgery.
The medical community can bring a more rapid response for epidemic prevention and disease treatment by taking advantage of various types of big data and fast processing speeds. Using personal health APPs on mobile phones, larger volumes of health and medical information can be collected and analyzed, providing more accurate data for clinical research.
What technological applications does smart healthcare include?
Smart healthcare generally refers to the application of information and communication technology (ITC) in the medical and health field, including medical care, public health monitoring, etc. There are four major directions of mobile smart medical care, including "promoting electronic medical records and medical image transmission", "hospital safety care RFID program", "promoting remote health care" and "health database value-added application". The new technologies most commonly used in smart healthcare include artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, cloud, big data, edge computing, and 5G technology.
The application of information technology can reduce error events and increase productivity. IT has the potential to reduce costs and foster greater accountability on the patient side.
What are the challenges facing the development of smart healthcare?
- Restricted regulations make it difficult to obtain medical data:
Because medical data involves the personal data of patients and is difficult to obtain, the application of artificial intelligence in the medical field is slower than that of manufacturing, transportation, and other industries. Even though Taiwan has the world's largest health care data, it cannot be used commercially due to restrictions imposed by the Personal Data Protection Act.
- Health insurance subsidies are limited, and hospitals lack incentives for promotion:
Artificial intelligence medical services must be approved by the competent authorities such as the Ministry of Health and Welfare before they can be used for medical diagnosis. However, the Food and Drug Administration manages medical materials (hardware), and the relevant requirements for approval do not apply to software (algorithms).
- Taiwan lacks the software industry:
Many people believe that Taiwan's technology industry and medical technology are leading the world, and these technologies could be coupled with health care information to create a market transformation that could match the success of the semiconductor industry. However, the strength of Taiwan's technology industry is hardware, and the core of smart medical care is software (algorithms), so Taiwan may not necessarily have a leading edge.
- Because most users of smart medical services are physicians, but R&D and manufacturing are largely in the technology industries, the two parties must cooperate closely to develop products that meet the needs of the medical field. The organizational culture and professional language of the medical world and technology industries are quite different, so more professionals with the talents to understand both medicine and technology are needed to coordinate and connect the two industries.
Digital medical care combines AI artificial intelligence, cloud big data, remote services, genomics, life science, and other technologies to provide accurate diagnosis and comprehensive care, improve treatment effectiveness, reduce medical waste, and reduce medical care burdens. Market acceptance has greatly improved.
Although the rapid development of medical technology can reduce the deadly threat of diseases, "prevention is better than cure" is always the most effective way of health. Both encompass huge expenses that cannot be ignored. It is best to make an early action plan to reserve medical expenses for emergencies and prepare yourself for the health and future of your family.