Next Big Things

I have been blessed to have a career at the leading (bleeding?) edge of several exciting technologies.  From the early days of electronic banking and the early experiments in telemedicine, I have seen several innovations become mainstream.  What’s Next?  My focus for the past 30+ years has been largely healthcare.  I asked some industry leaders, and I am happy to share their answers.

First, what are the biggest problems to solve? Here’s a top 5.

High Cost of Prescription Drugs

  • Prescription drug prices in the United States are significantly higher than in other nations, with prices in the United States averaging 2.56 times those seen in 32 other nations, according to a new RAND Corporation report.

Unintentional Medical Errors

  • Frequently cited studies have placed the number of deaths as high as 250,000 deaths per year, which would make medical error the third leading cause of death, behind cancer and cardiovascular disease

Keeping up to date with current medical literature

  • Clinicians and researchers must keep abreast of new publications in their field. This represents a major challenge due to the exponential growth in the number of publications and the ever-growing availability of the internet favoring the emergence of online-only publications

Health Inequity

  • Health inequity refers to avoidable differences in health between different groups of people. These widespread differences are the result of unfair systems that negatively affect people’s living conditions, access to healthcare, and overall health status

Un-Integrated Electronic Medical Records

  • 40 years ago, I could access my bank account from almost any bank ATM, yet today two different hospital systems often can’t share my medical records, even in the case of an emergency.

So what technologies are being deployed to address these challenges?    One answer comes back, loud, and clear.  Artificial Intelligence (AI)!  Use cases abound.  Just a sampling includes:

  1. AI supports medical imaging analysis

– Image dependent specialties are the first to benefit including radiology, pathology, and dermatology

  1. AI can decrease the cost to develop medicines and can support drug discovery.

Supercomputers have been used to predict from databases of molecular structures which potential medicines would and would not be effective for various diseases.  AI algorithms can identify new drug applications, tracing their toxic potential as well as their mechanisms of action

  1. AI can forecast disease

In 2019, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and DeepMind Health created a Machine Learning (ML) tool that can predict Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) up to 48 hours in advance

  1. AI contributes to cancer research and treatment, especially in radiation therapy

Automatic generation of clinical notes integrated with EHRs leads to a reduction of time spent by clinicians in managing patient treatment plans.

  1. AI supports health equity

The AI and ML industry has the responsibility to design healthcare systems and tools that ensure fairness and equality are met, both in data science and in clinical studies, to deliver the best possible health outcomes.

What are the other Next Big Things?

  1. Asynchronous Remote Patient Monitoring
  • Asynchronous technology is one of four modalities in telehealth. Importantly, it can standalone for effective care delivery for hundreds of low acuity conditions, or can be paired with another modality of virtual telemedicine to streamline care, including synchronous telehealth, mobile health, or remote patient monitoring (RPM).
  1. Cancer Care Innovations
  • Technologies and innovations like CRISPR, artificial intelligence, telehealth, the Infinium Assay, cryo-electron microscopy, and robotic surgery are helping accelerate progress against cancer.
  1. Medication at Home
  • The COVID-19 pandemic turned lives upside down, and the social distancing guidelines in place have exacerbated the difficulty of the task of medication management for many.
  1. Population Health Management – Big Data
  • An effective population health program will automatically identify patient care gaps, using a combination of claims data and clinical data from multiple sources. It will also use automated messaging via phone, email, or text to alert patients with care gaps that they need to make appointments to see their providers.

What else?  How about hand-held (low cost) ultrasound?  Virtual Reality for rehabilitation? Stem cell cures for diabetes?  Immunotherapies? The possibilities are endless.  Also keeping an eye on the industry.  I suspect that we are in for more consolidation as there are over 250 telehealth companies and not room for all to be successful.  Keep a close watch on Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.  Delivering healthcare to their own employees will lead to new strategies (and acquisitions).

And Beyond telemedicine and telehealth.  I have begun looking at new technologies for answering the climate change crisis, specially a app which will help large and small providers reduce carbon emission.  I hope to have more to report as we move into the new year.

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