20 Potential Technological Advances in the Future of Medicine: Part I.
As there are so many amazing things going on worldwide in medicine and healthcare, I thought creating a shortlist of some of the most promising ideas and developments would give us a glimpse into the future of medicine. The job of a medical futurist is to give a good summary of the ongoing projects and detect the ones with the biggest potential to be used in everyday medical practices.
1) New disease categories due to the excessive use of virtual reality solutions in gaming and other industries will appear. Examples include virtual post-traumatic stress disorder (v-PTSD) which might be the diagnosis for gamers who participate in large virtual battles wearing VR masks (such as Call of Duty of Battlefield) and experience similar symptoms as those soldiers who fought in real wars. Expect to see ICD codes assigned to such new conditions.
2) Real-time diagnostics should be in the focus for the next few years. The intelligent surgical knife (iKnife) was developed by Zoltan Takats of Imperial College London and works by using an old technology where an electrical current heats tissue to make incisions with minimal blood loss, but with iKnife the vaporized smoke is analyzed by a mass spectrometer to detect the chemicals in the biological sample. It means it can identify whether the tissue is malignant real-time. Surgeons will love this surgical Jedi knife which can significantly reduce the length of operations.
3) While better and better data input solutions arise, we will probably not even need hardware to add data to a laptop or PC as screens and keyboards will be projected on the wall or on the table making it simple and accessible everywhere in the clinical settings. Holographic keyboards will make us forget about smartphones and tablets, but only small projectors will be needed while the data will be stored only in the cloud.
4) Medical communication is something that affects all patients and medical professionals worldwide without exceptions. This is one reason why social media has the potential to become a huge “mind machine” making it possible to transmit, share, crowdsource and store medical pieces of information either for e-patients or medical professionals if such social platforms are used in a proper way. Don’t underestimate the power of digital/medical communication.
5) By the time Google Glass fulfills its whole potential of leveraging the power of augmented reality, similar contact lenses will be presented which are capable of the same functionalities but without the need for wearing real glasses. Google Glass can be controlled through voice and hand gestures; while the contact lenses will be controlled with brain waves as there are more and more developments in this area.
6) Ian Pearson wrote in his book, You Tomorrow, about the possibility that one day we will be able to create digital selves based on neurological information. It means we could upload our minds to a computer and live on in a digital form. As Google hired Ray Kurzweil to create the ultimate artificial intelligence controlled brain, this opportunity should not be so far away. We might have been searching for the clues of living forever in the wrong places.
7) Cyborgs will be everywhere around us including a new generation of hipsters who implant devices and technologies in their bodies just to look more cool. Advances in medical technology will not just repair physical disadvantages such as impaired eye sight but will create superhuman powers from having an eyesight of an eagle to having a hearing of a bat. While a patient wearing implanted defibrillators or pacemakers can also be added to the group of cyborgs, I expect to see more cases when patients ask for the implantation of a certain device without having medical problems.
8) If guns and other objects can be printed now and the biotechnology industry is working on printing even living cells; why would the appearance of 3D printed drugs be surprising? It will destroy and re-design the whole pharmaceutical world, but regulation will be a huge challenge as anyone will be able to print any kind of drugs that contain patented molecules at home. Bionic ears and simpler organs will be printed at the patient’s bedside.
9) Adherence and compliance represent crucial issues in improving the patients’ health and decreasing the cost of delivering healthcare. Several start-ups have targeted this issue with different solutions such as a pill bottle that glows blue when a medication dose should be taken and red when a dose is missed (winner of the recent Healthcare Innovation World Cup); or tiny digestible sensors that can be placed in pills and can transmit pill digestion data to physicians and family members. In the future, it’s going to be extremely difficult to lie to your doctor.
10) Radiology is one of the fastest growing and developing areas of medicine, therefore this might be the specialty in which we can expect to see the biggest steps in developments. One multi-functional machine will be able to detect plenty of medical problems, biomarkers and symptoms at once. Check the machine used in the film, Elysium from the 36th second in the trailer. With one quick check up it tells you what percentage of your cells are cancer free.
Here is the second part!