Technology in Healthcare

UPSC Mains

Innovative technologies changing the landscape of Heathcare Provision


Table of contents

In the last few years, it’s been extremely encouraging to see how integrating technology and new innovative tools can improve public service delivery. For example, the development of IndiaStack and the JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, and Mobile) trinity.

Similarly, the Covid-19 pandemic re-emphasized the need to reimagine the health system in the digital space. The recent launch of the National Digital Health Mission highlights the use of digital technology in the health sector.

In this article we will be looking at few areas in healthcare sector where innovative technologies is being used -

  1. The use of artificial intelligence for preventive and predictive health care. Eg. arogya setu app
  2. IoT in health management. Eg. Smart watches
  3. Biotechnology, cell biology and genetics
  4. Blockchain - to prepare depository of patient history. Blockchain technology in the healthcare industry offers a user-centered way for health information to be securely gathered, verified and shared. Most blockchain systems provide a transparent, distributed ledger of records that cannot be changed without the changes being recorded. The technology can be used to anonymize and safeguards patient data while also providing full transparency and interoperability across diverse, distributed and highly fragmented healthcare systems.
  5. The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) - a network of devices and mobile phone apps that track and prevent serious events in the course of chronic illness, linking patients and doctors for better monitoring and management of such conditions. eg. wearable ECG linked to the app - which is in turn linked to the hospital
  6. Robot Surgery - Adds control, precision, and flexibility to a surgeon’s hands to operate as non-invasively as possible to a patient.
  7. Tech in diagnostics - By infusing tech into genetics, pathology and other diagnostic fields, healthtech companies helps detect deadly diseases like cancer earlier and with greater accuracy. Using AI to process data, like medical images, and develop disease models can potentially help clinicians make diagnoses with more precision. For example, recent work from IBM Research has show that AI can be used to recognize and interpret brain activity patterns in MRIs to track the progression of neurodegenerative illnesses, such as Huntington's disease.
  8. Use of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in training new generation of Doctors and Nurses. Eg. New surgons can be trained to do complex surgical procedures using VR.
  9. Cloud computing - fot data collection, storage, sharing, and management. Cloud environments offer ways for healthcare organizations to build and customize applications that can automate how data moves through their information technology systems. Cloud adoption opens up opportunities for organizations to use AI and machine learning tools too, which can help uncover hidden patterns and insights that improve how care is delivered.
  10. Nanotechnology - eg. 1. Nanobots for the detection of disease by traversing microscopic blood vessels. 2. Nanoparticle drug delivery systems to accurately deliver toxic drugs to the target cells
  11. Mental health - AI apps analysing human emotions and working as therapy. eg. Woebot app
  12. Telehealth - healthcare in remote locations via video calls. Telemedicine saves money by keeping all non-essential consultations away from hospitals—cutting down on the time and infrastructure costs. Patients, especially people who live in remote locations or who work outside of traditional business hours, appreciate having more options for connecting with clinicians whether they're using video software on a computer or a mobile app on their phones.
  13. 3D Printing - Artificial veins, implants, bionic prostheses, customized surgical instruments, etc.
  14. Predictive Analytics - More advanced technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) leveraged for predictive analytics in healthcare. Valuable tools that are constantly undergoing innovation, AI and ML can help enable potentially life-saving predictions for patients.
  15. Transparency Into the Medical Life Cycle - Technology can help in providing patients with straightforward and easy access to critical details and information from anywhere.

Challenges Associated

  1. Data Privacy - concerns over misuse. eg. Patient data can be used for ads
  2. Cyber security - Pfizer, BioNTech, and the European Medicines Agency all reported attacks targeted at vaccine data. More than a few hospitals in the US fell victim to ransomware, which forced the healthcare sector to become far more conscious about its cybersecurity infrastructure.
  3. Technological challenges - eg. can't risk technical errors in crucial areas such as robotic surgery
  4. Ethical concerns - eg. Neuralink brain chip - If the technology actually ends up being capable of stimulating brain activity as the company claims, it could alter people’s personalities. While this might seem helpful for people recovering from mental health issues without the need for therapy or medication, it could lead to side effects. The brain stimulation provided by the chip might not always have positive effects and could end up fueling violent or aggressive impulses.

Meticulous planning, effective training, and ongoing monitoring of healthcare and technical staff as they use data systems, as well as installing data security systems, are essential to prevent, detect and plug data breaches as soon as possible.

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