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Accelerating Innovation: How Covid Has Prompted Technological Evolution Within Healthcare

Every industry across the world is feeling the impact of the demands posed by Covid. While healthcare is undoubtedly the heaviest impacted sector, the rapid evolution of e-health throughout 2020 promises to carry a lasting beneficial impact on the industry.  Significantly, innovations are occurring

Tech in Healthcare

Every industry across the world is feeling the impact of the demands posed by Covid. While healthcare is undoubtedly the heaviest impacted sector, the rapid evolution of e-health throughout 2020 promises to carry a lasting beneficial impact on the industry.

Significantly, innovations are occurring at break-neck speeds within the industry and all are being rolled out as a means of providing better levels of care for patients while protecting the public and staff alike from the dangers of the pandemic.

Healthcare in Europe

(Image: Bain & Company)

The statistics above show that there have been seismic advancements in healthcare technology throughout Europe, with the prevalence of telehealth nearly doubling since Covid arrived. Other supply chain developments and changes in patient triaging point to a new era of efficiency within the industry that can contribute to providing a greater level of care and ultimately saving lives long after vaccines have ended the threat of the pandemic.

Let’s take a deeper look into some of the most significant innovations that have been prompted by the emergence of Covid-19:

Incorporating AI With Real-Time Patient Data

One of the innovations in the era of Covid that could carry highly promising ramifications for the industry comes in the form of the Patient Status Engine (PSE), which has been developed to automatically collect raw patient data and decision-support tools for clinicians through the use of wearable sensors and wireless networks combined with big data in order to generate high-resolution patient monitoring.

Currently developed for use in two NHS trusts domestically and in other global use cases, it’s a class-2 medical device that’s FDA-approved in America and currently the only end-to-end digital solution of its kind.

Keith Errey, CEO and co-founder of Isansys Lifecare, likened the PSE to something of an app store for healthcare: “Bedside equipment in hospitals gives clinically accurate data, but isn’t portable, while wearable products generally don’t provide information accurate enough to make clinical decisions,” Errey explains. “People are developing their own artificial intelligence to run within our platform.”

Installed behind hospital firewalls, the PSE works through the use of wireless connections, essentially connecting patients through Android ‘gateways’ running Isansys applications that can receive incoming data from encrypted Bluetooth connections.

This can facilitate the development of high-dependency isolation wards where patients can easily be monitored and tended to should AI interpret the masses of data they produce to be of concern.

The Rapid Rise of e-Healthcare

In a matter of weeks, the pandemic changed the way that doctors interacted with patients. In the UK, NHS services adopted digital technology at an unprecedented rate. For instance, back in December 2019, NHS Digital reported that only 15% of 23 million primary care appointments during the month had taken place by phone or online. However, by April 2020, 49% of appointments were occurring either by phone or online.

In May 2020 many domestic GP practices were delivering as much as 90% of their appointments virtually. This technology has reportedly been equally as dramatic among some hospital and community services.

The emergence of Covid has prompted healthcare workers to embrace technology at a much faster rate and in a way that’s certainly saved lives and ensured that patients could stay safe at home.

The fact that this has been possible for the NHS, a universal healthcare system, shows how quickly large institutions can embrace new technologies within medicine.

3D-Printed Essential Equipment

In a world dominated by cloud technology and big data, we sometimes forget that 3D printers have grown into one of the most effective catalysts for innovation this Century, and Covid helped the technology to jump back into the limelight.

Belfast-based artificial intelligence software firm, Axial3D, deployed its 3D capabilities during the pandemic to develop new ways of printing face shields, ventilator parts and nasopharyngeal swabs for testing.

Following clinical trials across the US, the firm sent 100,000s of specially designed swabs to capture Covid samples in North America, Europa and Asia. Measuring at around 15 centimetres, these swabs are produced on Formlabs printers on surgical guide resin to keep samples better intact than traditional swabs. They can also be condensed into tubes, with each printer capable of creating 1,000 per day.

Axial3D chief executive, Roger Johnston, said: “Our primary market has been the US, where demand is huge.” Johnston also noted that demand for these medically optimised supplies aren’t slowing down over time, stating that “there won’t be a turning point backwards.”

The Road to Wider Adoption

As the arrival of Covid vaccines around the world paves the way towards an end of a difficult era in human history, the innovations that have emerged within the world of healthcare will begin to be explored worldwide.

In the near future, it’s worth looking out for the various adopted technologies that private health insurance organisations can offer patients and comparing them accordingly, while we can also expect the NHS to continue to build on its e-healthcare offerings through the form of virtual appointments and video consultations.

2021 looks set to bring us the light at the end of the tunnel of the Covid crisis. But even more cause for optimism can be found in the new preventative measures that medical practices can offer patients which have been developed to combat the virus. By building on the strides taken during the pandemic, the future looks increasingly bright for modern healthcare.