March 24, 2020
It’s one of the inescapable mantras of the Digital Century: that technology is disrupting all industries, including the healthcare sector. Healthcare practitioners are increasingly harnessing breakthrough technologies to address monumental challenges, as seen in the coronavirus outbreak, from the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to track the virus spread to telehealth interfaces that enable remote diagnosis.
Tech-empowered patient care is all the rage in Asia-Pacific, where the increased digital adoption promises to bridge healthcare coverage gaps across the region. And with technology change, it’s important for healthcare providers to keep pace with their patients’ evolving expectations.
A burgeoning development is in the field of personalized healthcare, where physicians and healthcare providers can tap into real-time data insights to improve patient engagement and deliver more effective, tailored treatments.
These advances are putting a whole new spin on the drugs, treatments and devices that we routinely use. Pills, bandages and the inhaler may have been around for ages but will now be given a complete rethink because of the technology used to personalize the patient experience. Let’s look under the hood of these everyday objects to see how emerging technologies are driving new possibilities in personalized care.
Perfecting the prescription: Future of precision medicine
Pills have long been a staple of modern medicine. But as digital innovations permeate the healthcare ecosystem, drug manufacturers are turning their eye to technologies such as AI to develop treatments faster and more efficiently. In recent years, major pharmaceutical firms have ramped up the adoption of AI to transform the drug discovery process.
New breakthroughs in AI and data analytics further promise to improve patient outcomes through precision medicine—drugs and medication tailored based on an individual’s genetic makeup, lifestyle and other environmental factors.
Momentum is already taking shape in the Asia Pacific region, where the precision medicine market is projected to grow at 16.63% CAGR and worth US$20.9 billion in revenue by 2023. The growing adoption of gene therapy to address chronic illnesses, along with the leaps made in big data analytics technology, are among the key factors accelerating the development of precision medicine in Asia Pacific.
Increasingly, precision medicine will rely on data from mobile platforms and apps that capture key biological markers and risk factors, wellness and health activities to provide a more complete picture of the individual. Using machine learning capabilities to glean insights from massive volumes of data, physicians will be able to prescribe treatment plans that are customized to the patient’s specific health needs and preferences.
Smart bandages that monitor and treat wounds
The bandage, first widely commercialized 100 years ago in the form of the Band-Aid, is undergoing its own tech-powered transformation. Medical researchers are now developing prototypes of smart bandages to monitor wounds using pH and temperature sensors. Taking into account that every individual heals at a different pace, these smart bandages are designed to release different drugs on-demand and depending on how well the wound is responding to the treatment.
In the future, smart bandages embedded with nanoscale sensors may further pave the way for personalized care. Data captured from the monitoring of wounds can be transmitted in real-time via low-latency 5G networks—whether for patients to proactively monitor their own wounds, or to provide doctors with more accurate and immediate information for customized treatment recommendations.
Better medical adherence through IoT connectivity
Non-adherence of medication remains a barrier for the healthcare industry. For patients with long-term diseases such as asthma or diabetes, failure to follow the prescribed medication schedule can result in undue complications.
In the pipeline are IoT-connected medical devices that can help patients better adhere to their regimens. For instance, IoT sensors embedded into smart inhalers allow the physicians to remotely monitor their patients’ inhalation technique and frequency. Besides monitoring for more accurate dosing, the data generated provides patients with tailored information to manage their health conditions more independently.
Aided by the speed of digital innovation, some of these examples of personalized healthcare may well be within reach of patients soon enough—and revolutionize the healthcare landscape in Asia.