Guest Post: How is Industry 4.0 Affecting Healthcare

June 8, 2020 Corporate Blog

by Joe Peters.

Already, in many sectors, we’ve seen things like AI, IoT, 5G, and other tools having a major impact on the way we live and work. You can search for information using smart speakers, and experiment with AR on your smartphone.

The healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are quickly discovering that the right tech could also be the key to delivering better care to patients.

The age of digital transformation and industry 4.0 will pave the way for exciting new opportunities for groups around the world. Here are just a few ways that industry 4.0 is affecting healthcare.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

AI is one of the most prominent examples of Industry 4.0 technology. With machines that can learn from the enormous amounts of data in every industry, we can unlock endless opportunities.
For instance, AI can examine millions of pictures and documents about a specific condition and automatically recognize patients showing signs of that condition. AI is already making its way into medical imaging technology, helping doctors to rule out conditions and diseases more accurately.

Additionally, using wearable devices coupled with AI and ML technology will make it much easier to conduct large-scale clinical studies over a longer time. AI can then quickly analyze the findings and spot causes, effects, and symptoms that humans could easily miss.

This could be a tremendous contribution toward treating diseases that go undetected or are difficult to diagnose.

At the same time, with AI, practitioners are learning more about how to run their clinics and practices more efficiently. For example, AI-tools can assist in more efficient resource planning and management, identifying underutilized equipment, staff, or inefficient scheduling systems.

According to studies, the healthcare industry’s use of AI will be worth $200 billion by 2025.

Because machine learning allows robots and systems to learn as they work, there’s plenty of opportunities for the value of AI systems to increase over time.

Wearables and Sensors

Wearables have already made a difference to the current healthcare landscape by helping people track their fitness, or calories burned on a jog. However, there’s more to smartwatches and other wearable devices than people realize.

In the medical landscape, these tools can help doctors and nurses track a patient’s condition wherever they are.

For instance, Apple released a Movement Disorder API a few years ago that allowed doctors to gather more information on Parkinson’s disease by tracking smartwatch wearers. Doctors can also use sensors in patient beds in a hospital to track things like vital signs and heart rate without constantly checking in on each person.

The rise of wearables and sensors has ushered a new era of telemedicine, where nurses and professionals can deliver care to patients who can’t attend a hospital. With the right wearable devices, a patient may not need to come into the hospital for a check-up after surgery.

Instead, they can provide their doctors with an informative update by using an app on a smartphone. This could also be potentially life-saving in rural areas where access to healthcare is limited.
Using data and insights gathered through smart wearables and then analyzed by AI and ML, healthcare providers can recognize changes in a patient’s condition and quickly respond by scheduling a preventive check-up or sending out drug prescriptions.

The benefit of telemedicine is that it also leaves practitioners with more time to treat patients with more severe conditions, and eliminates cumbersome commutes for patients – a benefit that has proved its worth during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Robotics in the Healthcare Industry

Robotics and robotic process automation are another area of opportunity for the healthcare sector. For the most part, most people think of chatbots for managing customer queries and appointments when they think of robots today.

However, in the future, we could be using much more significant robotic technology to care for patients. Collaborative robots, like the Da Vinci surgical robot, can assist healthcare professionals in the operating room, and reduce the risk of mistakes.

Robots can see things and deliver accuracy that would otherwise be impossible to achieve for a human. Although right now, humans and robots still need to work together on providing the best health service, there’s a lot of potential for the future.

In the years to come, robotics in healthcare could mean that paramedics can take a surgical device with them to an emergency call and deliver life-saving procedures instantly.
One particular area of robotics that promises significant potential in the healthcare space is the use of robotics with machine and computer vision. This means that robots and computers can train to see the world and understand visual input, as well as text and other data.

Machine vision can help doctors to know exactly how much blood someone loses during a procedure. These tools can also pinpoint issues with surgeries or determine when there’s a CT scan or X-ray problem.

The Rise of Mixed Realities

There’s already a lot of mixed-reality content in the world today. Retailers and game designers use Augmented and Virtual reality to engage their audience and deliver new experiences. However, there’s more to this technology than meets the eye.

In some parts of the world, senior living environments are already implementing virtual-reality tools to help patients with memory problems to “visit” spots from their memory. Doctors can make their patients feel as though they’re sitting in their childhood home, sparking recollection, and even improving mood in older individuals.

Elsewhere, VR headsets in hospitals can also offer a fantastic distraction for people suffering from severe pain issues or panic due to visiting a hospital.

VR and AR can even help to train doctors and nurses by giving them an insight into the human body and allowing them to practice certain skills without actually using a dummy or a cadaver.
With more realities to explore than ever before, doctors can increase their skills, and deliver new kinds of treatments to customers to help with a range of conditions, both mental and physical.

5G Connectivity and Healthcare

5G is one of the leading technologies that some of the top companies in healthcare are exploring today. While there are many opportunities in the marketplace for things like telemedicine and mixed realities, these options are restricted due to poor mobile connections.

To deliver the best experience possible, hospitals and health care providers need access to less latency.

Fortunately, 5G can better-serve the healthcare environment. 5G transmits vast amounts of information at incredible speed, ensuring that HD video conferencing and VR are possible.
5G can also help healthcare organizations quickly access large datasets so that they can immediately respond to requests for help.

Better mobile connections will also unlock opportunities for more components of the fourth industrial revolution. For instance, 5G can help IoT tools to connect and communicate more rapidly. It will also help with gathering huge amounts of data quickly to improve machine learning algorithms and AI capabilities.

A New Era for Healthcare

The technology revolution is creating a unique environment for all industries to grow and evolve. In this new landscape, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish with robotics, intelligent machines, and other unique tools. With Industry 4.0, the way that patients access healthcare, and doctors manage hospitals will transform.

Soon, we’ll have a world where anyone can access the healthcare support that they need in an instant. What’s more, our doctors and nurses will deliver better outcomes, with less stress on their shoulders.

Although it’s difficult to know for sure what the future might hold for any industry, including healthcare, we know that technology will have a significant impact.
Industry 4.0 is the start of a new era for healthcare, and a better experience for both doctors and their patients in the years to come.

Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate techie. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie devours the news on the latest gadgets and binge-watches his favorite TV shows. Follow him on @bmorepeters