NEWS / Smart Health

What’s So Smart About Smart Health Technology?

March 18, 2019

The writer Augusten Burroughs wrote, “When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not have your health, nothing else matters at all.” Good health is vitally important and as our technology gets smarter, will our health get smart too?

The population of the planet is growing fast. The United Nations predicts the world population will be around 9.8 billion by 2050. The UN is also expecting life expectancy to rise, stabilizing in 2045. Longer living persons often have to deal with chronic ill health. The World Health Organization (WHO) predict that by 2020, 75% of deaths, across the world, will be due to chronic illnesses. But the WHO also believe that 80% of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, strokes and diabetes 2 are preventable.
Can we use smart technology to help us prevent premature deaths? And, can technology help to make chronic illness a thing of the past, in a world where the population keeps on growing?

What is Smart Health?

Smart health is a way of taking new technologies and applying them to healthcare. Technologies like the Internet of Things, data analytics, virtual and augmented reality, and artificial intelligence (AI) can be applied to patient health. The concept of smart health promises a number of things according to a report by Deloitte. The report expects that smart health will provide more accurate care with cost-effective delivery. Deloitte goes on to say that smart health will create better communications between patients and caregivers. Smart health expands the reach of the healthcare system, allowing for more home care options. Countries like Japan, who have an aging population, are aware of the importance of smart health. Japan has set up the Asia Health and Well-Being Initiative which looks to create sustainable and self-reliant healthcare, shored up by technology.

Drivers of Smart Health Projects

The drivers behind a smart approach to healthcare include the changing demographics of our world as well as its increasing population. But other fundamental reasons why we have to innovate around healthcare include:
Healthcare spending - the earlier mentioned Deloitte study identified the spiraling costs of healthcare as being a driver for smart health. The global spending of combined healthcare in major world regions is expected to top USD $8.7 trillion by 2020. Smart health technologies offer many cost-effective ways of providing treatment.

Accessibility to good medicine for all - telemedicine offers ways for patients who live remotely or have accessibility issues to get the right level of care. Telemedicine and telehealth involve a host of technologies from wearables to telecommunications allowing diagnosis and even treatment, at a distance.
Optimization of health resources - as more chronic ill health affects an aging and growing population, optimization of health resources becomes crucial. Technologies like wearables create a lot of useful health data but other technologies like artificial intelligence are needed to use these data optimally. AI is being used to detect disease earlier and with improved accuracy.

Examples of Smart Health Technology

Data is a fundamental part of smart health. Devices that collect data, analyze it, then detect and predict using data, are behind smart health. Other technologies augment our bodies. Further technologies provide bridges between patient and caregiver. These are a few examples of technology in the space of smart health:
Health Pods: All-in-one health scanners like Bodyo offer a way to monitor and predict health issues using Artificial Intelligence.

Smart contact lenses: A number of companies have been working on developing the first smart contact lens to market. One such company, Verily, is working with Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, India to use the lens. The lens utilizes AI to detect conditions such as diabetes. India has a serious lack of ophthalmologists, so this innovation could help many people.

3D printed prosthetics: 3D printers are being put to excellent use in creating tailor-made prosthetics
Blood-pressure smart watch: Japanese company Omron, a Japanese company, has created a smartwatch that takes blood pressure readings which can be shared with a doctor.

Future of Smart Health

We have no choice but to innovate across the entire healthcare ecosystem. As our population grows and ages, healthcare becomes costly. Optimizing it by using appropriate technology is a way to help ease the pains of 21st century healthcare. Used well, smart health technology can support our overworked healthcare staff. And, it can also augment diagnostics through patient-initiated data generation and AI. What it can’t do, yet, is take the place of the doctor or nurse in providing direct excellent patient care. However, together, caregiver and technology can make our health smart.