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A Very Healthy Future

By Steve Wells, Rohit Talwar, Alexandra Whittington, Helena Calle

There is a digital transformation underway in healthcare that is starting to deliver tangible benefits directly to consumers. Digital healthcare is part of a bigger wave of medical innovation that aims to put technology to work for humanity. To demonstrate the central importance of health in forming a very human future, this article depicts visions of healthcare in 2030 based upon emerging technology and issues which are trending today.

  1. Real-time Health Data with the Internet of Things (IoT): Implanted microchips can collect information about our health such as stress levels, nutrition, glucose, brain activity, and heart function. The implants establish a baseline that indicates the patient´s healthy state . So, when a value varies from the norm, the patient receives a notification through their smartphone or another wearable. In some cases, there could even be an exchange of patients data with their general practitioner. This system detects diseases like cancer at an early stage, thus creating the possibility for more effective treatment. Keeping track of the patient´s health also allows for the provision of more accurate medical advice during healthy periods, too. With this technology in use, by 2030 doctors and patients might not have to wait for the appearance of symptoms in order to detect a disease and start treatment.
  2. Ingestible Nanobots: Ingestible nanobots can already move through the bloodstream to remove blood clots. These minuscule robots have top and tail control systems, so doctors can monitor their activity remotely. The doctor uses a catheter to insert the tiny nanobot and a vascular drill into the patient´s bloodstream. These nano-swimmers then attack the clog and the drill would then dissolve it. After surgery, the nanobots release anticoagulant drugs into the blood system. Interventions today provide only a 60% success rate. By 2030, robots swimming through our veins might provide a more efficient and safe solution to blood clots.
  3. Heal Thyself: One transformative vision of digital and personalized medical care in 2030 is self-diagnosis and healing. Advances in wearables that can guide individuals in detection, treatment, and prevention without the help of a medical professional could be profound. Technologies ranging from smart glasses and contacts to implantable IoT (internet of things) beacons could monitor and transmit vitals. By 2030, doctors and nurses would only be required for unusual cases since self-care would be routine. Medical records could be stored on a blockchain or quantum-encrypted systems fully accessible by the patients themselves and their approved health care providers.
  4. Mind Over Matter: A MIT researcher recently proved that a person’s state of mind can be influenced with the sound of artificial breathing patterns. Psychological responses were manufactured in study subjects simply by playing sounds of artificial respiration their ear, which manipulated their senses and generated false physical responses (in this case, of sleepiness or sexual arousal). Could sensory illusions become a facet of futuristic health care, displacing drugs, for instance? Emerging breakthroughs between now and 2030 might raise new awareness about the mind-body connection. Digital devices that manifest the power of the mind could be the medicine of the future.
  5. Climate Control: Will it one day be necessary to protect our health against the ecological catastrophes befalling the planet? The impact of climate change on the natural ecosystem is an emerging cause of mortality: tropical diseases are gaining territory and the growing impact of air pollution on respiratory health is becoming a global emergency. Is it possible that by 2030 there could be a device to protect against sickness caused by climate change? Being able to protect humanity in this way could save millions of lives.
  6. Nanotech Health Sensing Technologies: The combination of radar and imaging technologies with advances in nano-tech technologies are enabling efficient chip-level integration of advanced sensing and powerful computational functions to aid diagnosis, treatment, and patient monitoring. For example, non-contact radar can be used to monitor heartbeat and respiration in a patient, by measuring the minute movements of the chest, whilst eliminating background body ‘noise’ to ensure accurate data. Hyperspectral imaging functionality can be integrated at the chip-level to provide highly detailed image data. This has application in the future of retinal scans, wound healing monitoring, dermatology monitoring, and surgical assistance for example.
  7. Deep Learning to Fight Heart Disease: Coronary heart disease (CHD) is responsible for over 66,000 deaths per year in the UK and thought to affect around 2.3 million people. The NHS has been exploring the deployment of deep learning technology to help the fight against CHD as part of its Innovation and Technology Payment programme. HeartFlow Flow Analysis is used to evaluate patients’ blood flow to the heart and diagnose CHD more quickly and more effectively whilst reducing reliance on more invasive procedures. The technology uses deep-learning and data processing during a CT Scan to create a digital 3D model of a patient’s arteries. Algorithms then assess the impact of any blockages on blood flow to the heart. By 2030, could most cardiologists rely on an artificial intelligence (AI) assistant?
  8. Five-Minute Cardiac MRI: As imaging technologies improve, researchers have been exploring the idea of conducting five-minute comprehensive whole-heart magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of a patient’s heart. An accelerated protocol was trialled with 20 patients using MRI technology, comparing the results with a standard 2D clinical routine protocol. Although degradations in quality compared with traditional lengthy examinations were seen , image quality remained diagnostic for most scan types. The study demonstrated the technical feasibility and promising image quality of five-minute comprehensive whole-heart cardiac examinations, which in turn could lead to faster diagnosis over the next decade.
  9. The Real Tricorder: Of Star Trek fame, the medical tricorder was a handheld device that could scan a patient, read his or her vital signs, and diagnose problems in minutes. Slowly but surely, similar devices are becoming reality. DxtER is able to analyse and record symptoms as soon as patients first start having them, which means faster and more targeted care. Patients with either acute or chronic conditions could be diagnosed and managed from home or provide timelier patient information in medical facilities. The artificial intelligence algorithms DxtER uses to diagnose conditions were based on the inventor’s clinical experience as an ER doctor. This development shows how technology is putting more power in the patients’ hands and may continue to do so through 2030.
  10. Artificial Womb: Creating an artificial womb has long been a goal of researchers. But now, one such device has kept a lamb foetus alive for four weeks by researchers in Philadelphia. The womb is created from a plastic bag filled with synthetic amniotic fluid. A pumpless oxygenator and an umbilical cord interface deliver nutrients to the foetus. Significantly, the lamb was shown to develop properly including lung and brain development . With premature birth a leading cause of infant mortality, the research could lead to the survival of thousands of babies born prematurely every year. The artificial womb may be essential for reducing infant mortality by 2030.

 

This article, like our books, focuses on visions of the future where technology elevates humanity. We believe that visionary images of the future with digital personal health management and preventative healthcare technologies can empower a very healthy, human future.

 

This article was published in FutureScapes. To subscribe, click here.

Image:https://pixabay.com/images/id-4239646/ by thedigitalartist

 

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