In many ways, the Covid 19 pandemic has changed the face of healthcare as we know it. While the adoption of new technologies has been rife in industries such as manufacturing and finance in recent years, many healthcare professionals and organisations have been somewhat slower and more reluctant to change. However, the challenges brought about by the pandemic left no option but to put their trust in technology – or risk providing inadequate care to patients.

As a result of this ‘sink or swim’ situation, new technologies have been implemented within the healthcare sector at a speed we’ve never seen before. For example, the sudden need for immunosuppressed patients to be treated virtually saw care homes for the elderly being connected to 5G networks, allowing them to monitor and manage their daily life in real time.

Surging demand for mental health services also encouraged the implementation of conversational AI into support apps, and the shift to working from home rapidly accelerated the adoption of cloud solutions – as well as prompting increased use of tech like collaborative robots (cobots) for remote clinical trials.

Overall, this digital shift has been incredibly successful. After all, who’d have thought it was possible to produce a new vaccine in a year, let alone four different vaccines in under a year.

So, as we begin to see light at the end of the tunnel, how is healthcare going to reap the rewards of these new technologies moving forward?

Up next: preventative and DIY care

As we move into the new age of healthcare and life sciences, we’re going to see a much bigger focus on preventative care. This is a proactive approach to healthcare and, as the name suggests, it aims to prevent or identify health problems before they manifest into something major.

We’ve already had a glimpse of this in the form of routine check-ups, vaccines and cancer screenings, for example. And we’ve got a whole new market of personal health tracking devices which many people are embracing to become more health conscious.

Healthcare providers like the NHS also have data on how well we are looking after ourselves. This unlocks the potential to target those who should consider taking preventative action, or offer benefits to those taking better care of themselves – much like car insurance. Various studies reflect on how we respond to incentivising vs penalising, however, we’re not really exposed to any conclusive findings, as of yet.

As such, preventative care in the future is going to be a lot smarter, especially with the progression of genomics. This has the potential to highlight the diseases that certain individuals are more susceptible to – and armed with this knowledge, patients can be given the right advice and treatment to maximise the chance of avoiding illness, taking preventative measures, or lessening the symptoms.

Technology is also acting as a catalyst for DIY care. Many consultations and even treatments can now be carried out from the comfort of your own home – dialysis, for example. This means vulnerable patients can avoid the risk of travelling to hospitals, while relieving pressure on hospital staff. Assisted by technology, we’re going to see DIY care become more and more common.

The big change in healthcare in the near future

We’re clearly going to see a huge shake-up of healthcare – and soon. I mentioned genomics earlier, and I believe this will be the number one driver of healthcare change in the near future.

It’s common knowledge that different treatments work better on some patients than others. But, in the past, there has been no way to predict this.

Now, technology is enabling healthcare professionals to capture far more health data than previously possible. Combine this with ever-more powerful technologies like AI and quantum computing to analyse personal health data and identify patterns, and we can expect to see a great leap forward with personalised medicine and care.

This has the potential to truly elevate patient care by tailoring medicines and therapy to individuals based on factors including their unique genetics. This will allow healthcare professionals to ensure the best response and highest safety margin for their patients as individuals. The immediate challenges in this field remain how to integrate different systems and operate different processes efficiently and effectively. With continued investments in technology and training throughout the industry, these challenges should be easily overcome.

The future is looking bright for healthcare, and we’re certainly on the road from sickness to wellness. From managing supply chains with AI, to limiting illness with predictive analysis, technology is playing a vital role in eliminating inefficiencies and putting healthcare professionals on the front foot. Moving forward, a combination of human input and futuristic technologies will ensure the industry is agile and fit to adapt to any challenges that arise.