If change is a constant, then it is particularly true in the healthcare environment.
As new technologies and pathbreaking innovations boost treatment options for doctors and researchers, we as patients benefit from new treatments, machines and medicines. Ground-breaking technologies, such as precision medicines, blood-restricting bands, teletherapy – will shape the medical world in the coming year. Here’s a look at what you can expect by way of new technological outcomes in the field of healthcare in 2019.
Inhalers – with brains.
Bronchodilators and corticosteroids used via inhalers are cornerstone treatments for asthma. Used correctly, inhalers are efficient but up to 94 percent of users do so in- correctly. Tonya A. Winders, president and chief executive officer of the Allergy & Asthma Network, says that, “Standard of care works for approximately 90 percent of all patients when taken correctly and as prescribed. On the other hand, studies show about 50 percent of patients with asthma are not well controlled, which leads us to believe more can be done to increase adherence.”
That’s where Bluetooth-enabled smart inhalers make an entrance onto the healthcare scenario. These are designed to:
- Detect inhaler use
- Remind patients to use their medication in time
- Encourage proper use of the inhaler
- Gather vital data about a patient’s inhaler use that can help to improve care
Each time the patient uses the inhaler, it records the date, time, place, and whether the correct dose was administered.
“This will provide valuable insight to determine how adherent patients are to their controller medications, as well as help us understand the patterns of when a patient experiences a flare,” says Winders.
Training for blood flow restriction (BFR)
The biggest healthcare innovation on the fitness scene assures big muscle growth while using as little as 10 to 20 percent of the weight a person would typically use. How? By restricting blood flow.
This training involves the use of specialized blood pressure cuffs or bands to stop the flow of oxygen-deprived blood out of a person’s limbs. Once the blood pressure reaches optimal levels, the individual can continue to perform traditional muscle-building manoeuvres, but by using smaller weights.
A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology discovered that BFR training increases muscles mass while using loads as light as 20 percent of the normal one-rep max. Research also suggests that restricting the flow of blood reduces the oxygen muscles can access during the exercise. Without oxygen, muscles go into metabolic stress. Heavy weights aren’t needed to shock them into growth during this low-oxygen phase.
Before making a beeline to the gym (with a band or strap), Dr William P. Kelley, DPT, ATC, CSCS, with USA Sports Therapy, advises that people should consult someone trained to perform BFR correctly. “You should absolutely only do BFR training with someone who is a certified BFR clinician” says Kelley in an interview with Healthline.
How precision medicines treat rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a common autoimmune disease. It destroys the cartilage in joints, causing joint destruction, leading to significant disability. Extremely severe cases of RA can damage internal organs, leading to vascular inflammation. This can sometimes result in premature death. Now, the treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is getting more personalized hence more focussed and effective.
This has been made possible by a study done by Yale researchers (in 2016), which identified a genetic mechanism that could increase an individual’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. In this study, they researchers wrote that the use of precision medicine could help target that gene and suppress it. Like precision medication for cancer, precision meds for RA are designed to attack vulnerable genes or areas of the cell. This helps to weaken the disease, improve symptoms, and potentially help to reduce joint damage.
Ashley Boynes-Shuck, author, blogger at ArthritisAshley.com has stated that, “Any time a medication can use targeted therapy or genetic profiles to make treatment more specific to the unique patient, I would think the greater chances of success.” Mr Boynes-Shuck, a health advocate, was himself diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis at age 10.
The healthcare industry sees doctors and researchers finding ways to create novel therapies and approaches, designed around individuals not diseases, thanks to breakthroughs in precision medicine.
“No two RA patients’ medical journeys — or bodies — are the same. Despite having the same diagnosis (rheumatoid arthritis) and possibly the same set of symptoms, every patient is nonetheless bio-individually unique,” Boynes-Shuck said.
Human interaction beats technology, every time.
Despite so much technology in our lives, especially true in the field of healthcare, most people like their exercise as low tech as possible. “There is kind of saturation point where we just want to go to the gym and work out and forget the downloading and uploading of this and that. It gives us a chance to step away from the screen for an hour or so and maybe connect with friends and those we work out with in the meantime,” Peter McCall, Adjunct Faculty of Exercise Science at Mesa College in San Diego, Calif., told Healthline, “Going back to the basics of movement is always a sure thing,”
The trend of getting back to basics is growing where healthcare is concerned. “Let’s face it, Cross Fit got huge, but it has you run around the block. They’ve gone to the basics. Instead of buying an $8,000 treadmill, they have you flipping over 300-pound car tires, or instead of being on an expensive elliptical runner, you’re doing jump ropes in your garage,” McCall continued. “The body is the same way,” he explained. “You can’t just leave your body sitting in the backyard, so to speak. It will deteriorate. Your heart is like the engine, so when you move, your heart pumps blood around the working muscles. By moving, you’re making your heart more effective at getting blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your muscles.”
Karen Lawson, IEEE Senior Member and Senior Director of Design Technology, agreed with McCall, pointing to data tracking technology, widely used to track miles run, steps taken, calories eaten, and more. Moving is essential Lawson said, even though technology helps to quantify fitness goals and motivate people to refine workouts and diet.
“Being a passive participant will still not result in achieving health-related or physique goals without moving the body. Also, it can be discouraging to see the slow pace of results for someone constantly checking in. It confirms there is still no ‘quick fix’ to years of sedentary behaviour or poor diet,” she concluded.