As a fellow millennial, I have grown up alongside the progression of technology. Despite being young, I have witnessed pivotal moments of what I like to call “The Innovation Timeline”. I witnessed my dad’s transition from a work “beeper” to a thick Nokia cell phone and of course the advancement toward “smart” and mobile technology.
It seems technology has integrated itself into almost every facet of contemporary life, such as getting a cab or going to the doctor. Whether you’re walking through a small town or metropolitan area, you’ll most likely see people with smart phones. Mobile technology has evolved immensely, and its ability to meet varying levels of complexity is why it has a new and unique role within the healthcare industry. A potential outcome of this integration could be the increased availability of data as well as the availability of data without overhead costs.
The fusion of mobile technology and healthcare enables both users/patients and medical professionals to engage in a new, modern, and possibly more accessible take on patient care. Last summer at Boston University’s Medical Campus, I worked in the Health, Technology and Change Lab on a project focused on the implementation of a mobile app for hypertension patients. The app utilized The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet and tracked daily consumption as well as blood pressure and weight data.
The goal of the study was to determine whether the diet in app form could further assist in reducing high blood pressure and decrease the probability of complications associated with hypertension. Since I worked during the trial period and primarily assisted with development tasks, I unfortunately wasn’t able to see any conclusive data. Still, it was remarkable to both witness and contribute to a project dedicated to the integration of mobile technology and healthcare.
During Apple’s recent Keynote, the company introduced The Apple Research Kit carrying the message, “Now everybody can do their part to advance medical research.” Apple’s Research Kit is an open source framework allowing researchers and developers to create apps that could potentially discover the next medical breakthrough. Despite being new, leading institutions have already employed this powerful resource and developed apps focusing on asthma, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, breast cancer, and cardiovascular disease research. The institutions behind such apps include The Dana Farber Cancer Institution, Mass General Hospital, and the University of Oxford…just to name a few. The existence of Research Kit, brings to mind how it will affect the very definition of who a researcher is and what makes a researcher…well a researcher. As previously stated, “Now everybody can do their part to advance medical research.” Not only does this infer that anyone from a young developer to a retiree could make substantial strides in medical research, but it causes one to consider how the healthcare industry could develop when both medical professionals and non-medical professionals are working together for a specific cause. It will be interesting to see how far individuals will use this resource as well as the potential impact it may have on the healthcare industry.
The healthcare industry isn’t only growing in terms of mobile applications, innovative surgical planning technologies have been developed as well. Form Labs, a Boston based tech-company specializing in the design and manufacturing of 3D printers have assisted medical professionals by 3D printing surgical reference models. Ordinarily, surgeons have used 2D methods (such as CT scans) for studying a patient’s anatomy before going into surgery. In my opinion these methods are inefficient due to the fact surgeons and other medical professionals lack the ability to see the ENTIRE picture, which creates inaccurate planning. The use of Form 1+ (their 3D printer model) and CT scan data (used as a blueprint) allows surgeons to have a physical representation of the specific patient anatomy they’ll be operating on resulting in the safest and possibly most efficient method to planning a surgery.
As technology continues to evolve and inspire future innovators, “The Innovation Timeline” will further expand. These innovators will develop the next generation of technology, which will replace the innovations mentioned above. In my opinion, this is only the beginning of the integration of mobile/smart technology within the healthcare industry.