Some of our most significant medical advances have come during the darkest periods of history. Inventions like the tourniquet, quick-clot, pain medication and even modern vaccines have come as a result of necessity during wartime.
Technology — specifically, new networking and computing technology — is allowing for remarkable changes to the way that we take care of our bodies. It is helping people track medical records, treat obscure conditions and receive care in locations where they might not have been eligible before.
Here are a few examples of tomorrow’s medicine today.
You probably think of augmented reality as the tech that lets you view dinosaurs on your city street through the screen on your cell phone and its camera. It definitely is that, but it can also be a valuable tool for the medical community.
Medical schools are beginning to use AR as a teaching tool to better expose students to the intricacies of the human physiology. Instead of looking at books or graphics, students can view a three-dimensional representation of the subject matter. Compared to a cadaver, it’s cheaper — plus, AR can be used to view any condition the instructor desires, on-demand.
Doctors are busy people. Sometimes we might like them to be in two places at once, but they can’t. In situations where a patient needs specialized care, that can be a problem. Waiting for a doctor to arrive from far away can have dire implications.
Telemedicine is beginning to change all that. This new technology can be thought of as next-level videoconferencing for patients. A doctor can assess their symptoms via a “proxy,” which is a robot that stands in for the doctor in the operating room. They can then prescribe medication or refer the patient to the appropriate specialist.
In the military, there are already examples of field hospitals that use robots to allow operations to be carried out remotely. While this technology is not widely available to the public yet, it’s presumable that telemedicine will reach this point someday soon.
Miniature robots that swim through your bloodstream and dispense disease-fighting antigens have, in the past, been the stuff of science fiction. That could change in our lifetime.
Advances in cancer research boast ways to kill up to 90 percent of cancer cells in 48 hours using micro-bots coated with algae and controlled using magnets. Now, for all the “Altered Carbon” and “Deus Ex” fans out there, we just need the ones that give you super-strength and x-ray vision.
Wearables and Healthcare Trackers
If we’re getting a little too far-fetched for you, here’s some medical tech you’ve probably already tried out in the “real world.” Medical tracking devices became popular with the release of wearables like the Fitbit and Apple’s Health app, but the early versions of these devices were rather clunky to use. The bar was too high for most people to get a real benefit from them.
In the future, as sensors get smaller and more devices become network-aware, the types of sensors you would have in a fitness tracker wristband might be integrated directly into your clothes. Your cell phone could give you alerts about your eating habits, exercise or sleep patterns. There are even new apps being developed to assist with mental health.
Mental health has traditionally been a neglected corner of the healthcare industry. Huge contingents of the population struggle with mental health issues daily, but many people don’t even know how to recognize if their psychological state is healthy.
Transformative tech aims to change all that by removing the need for someone to seek a professional consultation to receive care. For example, there are multiple apps available for veterans returning from the field with post-traumatic stress disorder. The apps provide them with meditative exercises, positive advice and a means to contact help if needed.
Another example is the new app Ginger.io. Designed to help connect functional people who struggle with anxiety, depression and other commonly undertreated mental conditions, the app listens in on your conversations and forms a model of your speech pattern. Once it knows you, Ginger can notify you if you’re sounding stressed and refer you to additional resources or a professional for help.
A New Era in Medicine
It’s shocking to think that only a century ago, life expectancy for humans was about 40 years. These days, we’re living to closer to twice that age — and some doctors are beginning to question whether the human body really has an expiration date with the right medicine. Don’t go asking for a refund on your cryogenic freezing policy just yet, but at this rate, it seems like anything is possible.