Healthcare Technologies of the Future

By: Carl Emery

Technologies once dreamed of are now becoming a reality. Hospitals around the country are trying to determine how to best leverage existing technologies and future technologies to enhance the patient and family experience, improve clinical work-flows, and operations. A few of these new technologies coming into focus include: Patient Portal Apps, Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Enhanced Way-Finding.

 Patient Portal Apps

The patient experience does not start and end in at the hospital. The patient journey starts at home and continues to the hospital and then back to their homes where the care continuum comes full circle. Patient engagement apps and portals are being improved to become seamless to enhance the patients’ journey as they move back and forth between the digital and physical worlds.

As part of the patient engagement arena, mobile apps are being created to better communicate with the patient. These apps are being created to give driving directions to their appointment or procedure; notifications about appointment changes or delays to improve wait times, patient education and entertainment, medicine information, etc.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are “augmented” by computer-generated perceptual information, ideally across multiple sensory modalities. Augmented Reality (AR) will play a critical role in the healthcare industry as healthcare providers continue to learn the benefits of AR and how it will improve patient care and rehabilitation.

Physical Exams:

Imagine that you walk into your scheduled doctor (or dentist) appointment, only to find your doctor (or dentist) wearing an augmented reality headset (e.g. Google Glass). Although it may look strange, this technology allows him (or her) to access past records, pictures, and other historical data in real-time to discuss with you. Instantly accessing this digital information without having to log into a computer to check a records room will prove to be a major benefit to healthcare

professionals. Integration of augmented reality assisted systems with patient record management technologies is already a highly desirable utility. Data integrity and accessibility is a major benefit to this type of system, where record access becomes instantaneous and consistent across all professionals to the most current records, instructions, and policies.

Surgical Procedures:

Also imagine that you are going in for a surgical procedure. Before the anesthesia takes effect, you notice that the doctor is wearing an augmented reality headset. The doctor will use this throughout the procedure for things such as display of surgical checklists and display of patient vital signs in a dashboard fashion. Augmented reality assisted surgical technologies assist professionals by providing things such as interfaces to operating room medical devices, graphical overlay-based guidance, recording & archiving of procedures, live feeds to remote users, and instant access to patient records. They can also allow for computer generated images to be projected onto any part of the body for treatment or can be combined with scanned real- time images. The benefits of using augmented reality include a reduced risk of delays in surgery due to lack of familiarity with new or old conditions, reduced risk of errors in performing surgical procedures, and reduced risk for contamination if the device allows surgeons to access information without having to remove gloves (i.e. hands-free) to check instruments and data.

Treatment & Rehabilitation:

Samsung highlighted AR in their Olympic commercials. It shows a patient with either paralyzed legs or just having leg surgery trying to regain his walking ability. The commercial shows the patient wearing AR technology goggles. As he hangs onto the walking handrails to balance himself and peers into the goggles, he finds himself walking on the edge of a beach with the waves splashing over his feet opposed to the reality of being in a hospital rehab room. Improving the mental state and matching that with the physical rehab can only improve and possible shorten recovery times.

Artificial Intelligence

Mining medical records:

The most obvious application of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare is data management. Collecting it, storing it, normalizing it, tracing its lineage – it is the first step in revolutionizing the existing healthcare systems. Recently, the AI research branch of the search giant, Google, launched its Google Deepmind Health project, which is used to mine the data of medical records in order to provide better and faster health services. The project is in its initial phase, and at present, they are cooperating with the Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to improve eye treatment.

Designing treatment plans:

IBM Watson launched its special program for oncologists – This program is able to provide clinicians evidence-based treatment options. Watson for Oncology has an advanced ability to analyze the meaning and context of structured and unstructured data in clinical notes and reports that may be critical to selecting a treatment pathway. Then by combining attributes from the patient’s file with clinical expertise, external research, and data, the program identifies potential treatment plans for a patient.

Assisting repetitive jobs:

IBM launched another algorithm called Medical Sieve. It is an ambitious long-term exploratory project to build the next generation “cognitive assistant” with analytical, reasoning capabilities and a wide range of clinical knowledge. Medical Sieve is qualified to assist in clinical decision making in radiology and cardiology. The “cognitive health assistant” is able to analyze radiology images to spot and detect problems faster and more reliably. Radiologists in the future should only look at the most complicated cases where human supervision is useful.

Getting the most out of in-person and online consultations:

You have a headache, you feel dizzy and you are sure that you have a fever. Your spouse tells you that you do not look great, you should go to the doctor. So, you call the assistant of your GP and ask for an appointment. It turns out you have to wait two more days to get the chance for a visit. Now, this is what’s not going to happen with Babylon and its new app. The British subscription, online medical consultation and health service, Babylon launched an application this year which offers medical AI consultation based on personal medical history and common medical knowledge. Users report the symptoms of their illness to the app, which checks them against a database of diseases using speech recognition. After taking into account the patient’s history and circumstances, Babylon offers an appropriate course of action. The app will also remind patients to take their medication, and follow up to find out how they’re feeling. Through such solutions, the efficiency of diagnosing patients can increase by multiple times, while the waiting time in front of doctor’s examining rooms could drop significantly.

Precision medicine:

Artificial intelligence will have a huge impact on genetics and genomics as well. Deep Genomics aims at identifying patterns in huge data sets of genetic information and medical records, looking for mutations and linkages to disease. They are inventing a new generation of computational technologies that can tell doctors what will happen within a cell when DNA is altered by genetic variation, whether natural or therapeutic.

Drug creation:

Developing pharmaceuticals through clinical trials take sometimes more than a decade and costs billions of dollars. Speeding this up and making more cost-effective would have an enormous effect on today’s healthcare and how innovations reach everyday medicine. There are supercomputers that root out therapies from a database of molecular structures. Last year, a supercomputer named, Atomwise, launched a virtual search for safe, existing medicines that could be redesigned to treat the Ebola virus. They found two drugs predicted by the company’s AI technology which may significantly reduce Ebola infectivity. This analysis, which typically would have taken months or years, was completed in less than one day.


Enhanced Way-Finding

Way-Finding in healthcare done right does more than just direct patients from point A to B: it’s a pillar of a great patient experience, turning what can be a frustrating ordeal into a smooth, engaging journey. A more unified experience between all the moving parts (tech, the built environment, staff) is critical to alleviating stress and maximizing efficiency. There are way-finding apps such as Gozio Health ( are designed to guide a patient through the hospital by using the app on their mobile phone.

Gozio Health maps out all the rooms within a hospital and enables them to provide step by step directions to a person walking inside of a hospital trying to find their desired room location. It also directs patients to the check-in kiosks for an episodic visitor. It works very similar to google driving maps, except this is designed for directions inside a hospital facility.

Hospitals are also starting to explore Smart Parking options to assist with patient engagement. Trying to locate an available parking spot can be one of the most challenging and frustrating things for a patient before they enter into the hospital. The Smart Parking Technology uses automation to direct the drivers to the parking spot that is most convenient.

The impossible is now becoming the possible with some of the above-mentioned healthcare technologies. The challenging part will be how the healthcare organizations determine the best technologies systems that will make the biggest impact on improving their care environment. EDI can help by providing Technology Strategic Planning, Visioning Sessions, and a Technology Road Map to guide healthcare organizations into making the best long-term decisions.