How Technology Is Disrupting the Healthcare Sector

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How Technology Is Disrupting the Healthcare Sector

A recent report indicated that the number of devices connected to IoT has been ballooning rapidly. According to the October 2017 report, this technology is expected to expand by an average of up to 12% per year. The number of devices will rise to approximately 125 billion by the year 2030, this is from 27 billion devices that were reported in 2017. How does this relate to our healthcare? Read on to find out how technology is disrupting the healthcare sector.

Technology in Health Care

The reported growth has seen technology transform many sectors by changing the way things are done. The health sector has not been left out. Technological innovations and inventions have changed how health practices are being carried out. The technology has seen the innovation of new platforms through which doctors can interact better with their patients. It’s no longer business as usual in the health care sector. Let’s get straight to the point and look at some of the ways in which technology is changing this sector. Let’s take a look at how technology is disrupting the healthcare sector.

5 Technologies That Are Disrupting the Healthcare Sector

1. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence or AI is the ability of a machine to imitate the functionality of a human brain. AI-enabled machines and software are being used to assist medics in analyzing and releasing medical reports. To make this possible, the systems are pre-loaded with critically scrutinized medical information which performs as the ‘brain’ function of the machines.

With artificial healthcare knowledge, the medical systems are able to provide different medical solutions as required in real-time. This eases many operations in health care making the operations run more swiftly. The fruits of this technology continue to be reflected in reduced costs of treatments, easy medical workflow and evident eradication of unnecessary hospital procedures.

Many health facilities across the world are expected to adopt the AI technology and there’s a speculated boost of the market.

2. Internet of Things

Health care services have for a long time been ranked among the most expensive services. The rise, existence and spread of so many chronic and lifestyle ailments only seemed to make the situation direr. Fortunately, today there’s the development of IoT to help salvage the situation.

The use of IoT technology has helped doctors achieve a cost-effective and real-time diagnosis of their patients. Below are examples of how IoT is changing the health sector:

IoT has enabled the pairing of special medical devices with a patient’s smartphone to allow doctors to carry out services such as:

  • Monitoring and reporting

Medical conditions such as heart attacks, asthma and diabetes can now be monitored in real-time. The digital devices are able to collect the required data and transfer it to the health practitioners who can give an immediate response that will help save the patient.

The technology allows for remote monitoring of patients (from their homes, workplaces etc.) and saves them the time and money that they would have spent travelling to the healthcare centres. In some instances, remote monitoring ends up saving lives because a diagnosis is given almost immediately.

  • Effective Service Delivery

Thanks to the internet of things there’s better automation of patient care services. There are better information exchange, improved inter-machine communication and seamless flow of data. All this together make the workflow hassle-free and ultimately improving the quality of the services offered in healthcare facilities.

Due to the sensitivity of medical records, users of IoT enabled medical devices should consider channelling their data through a VPN. Virtual Private Networks ensures that all the transmitted data is encrypted making it inaccessible to third parties or cybercriminals.

3. Augmented Reality (AR)

AR is another technology that is taking the healthcare industry by storm. This technology that dates back to the ’60s allows users to project digital information and data and to bring it onto the current environment. The data could be in the form of images, sounds, and videos among others.

In healthcare, AR technology is being effected through a very advanced process known as Augmented Surgery. The system provides surgeons with live information regarding a patient as they perform surgical procedures. The technology also allows surgeons to access the patients MRI data and CT scans which helps study the patients’ anatomy.

With AR technology, doctors can see the internal organs of a body before embarking on a surgical process. Due to the possible visualization of bones and other internal organs, surgeons can carefully determine the exact positions to inject or cut. The accessibility of this data has made many surgical operations successful and effective.

4. 3D Printing

3D printing has benefited the health sector in many ways. It is a process that will come in handy for the fabrication of human tissues; the tissues will be used in the repair of damaged organs. 3D prints are easily customized and this helps reduce the costs and the time that would have been spent on surgery.

The printing of scaffolds and other medical aids in 3D has impacted the health sector. There will be a paradigm shift with the 3D printing of human tissues which will involve the printing of ears, hands, eyes and even the heart. The printing of even the smallest units of human tissue will surely be a game-changer in the health sector.

5. Cyber Security Concerns Raised By Using Technology in Healthcare

All the technologies above involve sophisticated methods of collecting and transferring data. Many of the systems rely on internet use in order to perform effectively. With all the cyber-crimes that have been reported, there are some genuine concerns about the security of healthcare data given the continued adoption of the technologies discussed above.

Some of the devices that are currently in the health market (and in use actually) have many security loopholes which if abused could cause dire consequences or even death. One major vulnerability is the use of outdated operating systems in medical devices.

As revealed in the report of an experiment carried out in 2018, researchers were able to hack and disable an insulin pump. This move prevented the device from delivering the crucial medication it was supposed to. The researchers also demonstrated their ability to remotely take control of a pacemaker and the possibility of abusing the whole system in a move that would endanger a patient.

The October 2016 DDoS attack was also proof that if left unsecured, IoT devices can be hijacked. The Mirai botnet launched an attack that ended up compromising many IoT devices. The magnitude was too much that authorities suspected the attack to be coming from a hostile nation.

Another research that raised concerns about the security using IoT devices in healthcare was an experiment by students from a university in Alabama. The researchers were able to hack the medical system of human simulation. The pacemaker of Istan (the simulator) was proved to be vulnerable as it was hacked. The researchers were able to manipulate the heart rate of the simulator and could either speed it up or slow it down.

The researchers also reported that they could shock a defibrillator. If done to a real patient, all these manipulations could have dire consequences like severe injuries or even death.

The manipulations could also affect an insulin pump and this too could cause injuries or death.

The different scenarios are clear indicators of the dangers that can come from incorporating technology in health care. That said, it is undeniable that technology is a necessary evil in the health care sector. The solution lies in putting up reliable security measures in place.

Fortunately, VPNs are a viable and lasting solution. What is a VPN? Virtual Private Networks are a reliable way of securing medical devices such as vital monitors and sensors used either at home or at the hospital. VPNs can be installed on a router to protect all the data received or sent through that network. Protection is limited to the network that has a VPN installation. Therefore, it is important to note that devices that will be in use while on the go become vulnerable immediately you leave the secured network.

As is the case with other transmissions that are done online, there are concerns over the security of data transmission on telehealth. Tele-health involves the provision of health care to patients remotely. It is mainly used to provide care services to aged patients who would be inconvenienced by frequent visits to the health facilities. They are therefore given health care via devices (phone) that rely on internet use.

Just like the IoT devices, telehealth can be secured by installing a VPN on a router. This will secure all the data that is sent or received on the network by encrypting it.

There is no doubt about the many benefits that technological advancements and innovations have for the health care sector. Everything is moving faster and at fairer prices. The convenience is immeasurable. However, without the right security measures in place, these advancements present many avenues for fraudsters and cybercriminals to make their kill.

Users and manufacturers of the medical devices should play their role of ensuring that the technologies are well guarded against cybercriminals and their likes.

As already revealed by the different researchers, cybersecurity measures on medical devices should not be treated as an afterthought.

Author’s bio:

Brad Smith is a technology expert at TurnOnVPN, a non-profit promoting a safe, secure, and censor-free internet. He writes about his dream for a free internet and unravels the horror behind big techs.


Featured Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash
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