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How technology is powering healthcare into 2020

10 Feb 2020

Jon Lee-Davey

IoT Healthcare Lead, Vodafone Business

It is reasonable to say 2019 has seen its fair share of healthcare challenges. As well as the continued rise of aging populations and drug costs, political uncertainty and an uncertain regulatory landscape has put added pressure on healthcare providers.

But a new decade brings with it new opportunities. More than ever, technology is being leveraged to accomplish some truly remarkable feats in healthcare, helping patients live longer, healthier, and richer lives.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the industry’s latest trends and explore how healthcare providers can deliver the best outcomes for their patents.

The healthcare revolution

One of the major trends we are seeing is a shift from reactive to preventative treatments; addressing the problem earlier to reduce its impact on the patient and consequently reduce future cost.

Critical to this shift is the internet of things (IoT). Once connected, wearable medical devices can monitor patients 24/7, enabling them to securely transmit pertinent data to healthcare providers.

Rather than wait until symptoms develop, data analysis now identifies early signs of a need for intervention and pre-empt a problem.

This brings me to an area that will play a big role in 2020: interoperability.

Both from a regulatory and technology perspective, enabling systems and devices to share data – whether it be at a local or international level – is a hugely challenging task.

From hospitals being unable to share medical records to doctors prevented from pooling data to identify trends, healthcare simply has not yet benefitted from big data in the way other industries have.

Things are changing though. With open standards being more widely recognised and the EU examining legislation to facilitate the smoother flow of information across borders, the potential of data-driven healthcare is gradually being realised.

This will give doctors a clearer understanding of a patient’s medical history, treatments and experience so far, which means a better experience for both parties.

Power to the patient

An important piece of the puzzle is engaging and empowering patients.

Medical adherence is key for optimum outcome, but humans are not perfect, so supporting patients with clinic visits and processes that are more efficient can help them to follow advice.

Technology promises a future where treatment is as unobtrusive as possible, with patients able to do more at home and reduce trips to the hospital. This is especially useful for those suffering with chronic diseases, where frequent appointments can have a serious impact on quality of life.

Most importantly, patients will have a greater sense of control over their own care. They can work with the medical team to personalise the service they receive and get the information required to make better-informed decisions.


A network to inspire the future

To connect people, places and things to generate the data required for change, you need a strong network that encourages unrestricted movement of data.

As more medical devices connect to the cloud and interoperability becomes commonplace, 5G networks will provide the capacity and low-latency required to connect patient, device and doctor.

The potential is huge: from predictive analytics to anticipate drug requirements to using AI to autonomously diagnose disease.

Just last year our network enabled surgeons in Milan to perform live, remote-operated surgery and a few months before we demonstrated how drones can be used to deliver blood, defibrillators and organs into hard-to-reach areas, such as rural villages and disaster zones.

Although there’s a way to go until these trials becomes an everyday reality, it’s an exciting preview of what the future holds.

But for now, the technology and networks available are more than enough for healthcare providers to start transforming the treatment they provide.

Technology isn’t just changing the way we treat in the home – find out what happens when you use drones to deliver diabetes medication to patients on a remote island in Ireland.

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