Most people may not know this, but we have a modern-day oracle. We have a tool that has already predicted the future several times. What is it, you ask? It’s pop culture.
In 1962, The Jetsons hit our airwaves. The classic TV show follows the quaint Jetsons family in an undetermined future. It features robot vacuums, three-hour workdays and flying cars. In 2020, we have our Roombas, Tim Ferriss’s famous four-hour workweek concept and Terrafugia’s flying car prototype.
In 1989, Back To The Future Part II predicted the development of wearable technology, hoverboards and augmented reality. In 2020, we seemingly can’t go a day without reading about the latest AR innovation or the success or failure of Fitbit. We even have our own hoverboard prototype — Hendo.
However, one thing that pop culture hasn’t predicted yet is what healthcare will look like in the future — and in a way, pop culture doesn’t have to. We have today for that. Below are five out-of-this-world technologies that could shape healthcare.
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Artificial Intelligence Diagnosing Cancer
According to the computer and cognitive scientist John McCarthy, known as the Father of AI, artificial intelligence is “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs.”
A perfect AI can take in its environment, absorb the millions of data, provide a highly effective and quick analysis, and suggest actions or recommendations. In other words, we want our own AI to learn, think, solve problems and predict trends. In healthcare, we want our AI to be able to predict — quickly and accurately — health conditions. Although we are not 100% there yet, we are close.
Longevity Vision Fund has invested in a company called Freenome that focuses on developing early detection blood-based diagnostic tests for cancer. In a recent study, Freenome shared that its diagnostic test demonstrated a 96% specificity (patients who do not have the disease) and a 94% sensitivity (patients who do have the condition) for early stage colorectal adenocarcinoma. The standard genetic diagnostic rate is a range of 33% to 98% sensitivity and a range of 72% to 99% specificity.
Retail Behemoths Entering Digital Healthcare
When we think of healthcare, hospitals and doctors usually come to mind. We think of the sterile waiting rooms, cold metal beds and green/gray privacy curtains. In the future, however, it might be the bright, clean and plentiful stores of Walmart or Walgreens.
One giant retailer with a strong focus on digital healthcare is Amazon, which recently purchased PillPack to make it easier to receive medication. The partnership sorts your pills by dosage, delivers them to you monthly and provides clear drug therapy instructions.
In the future, we might bypass hospitals when we are sick. Instead, we’ll head to the neighborhood Walmart, see our primary care physician, get our prescription and pick up some tissues and cough drops on our way out.
Mind-Controlled Wearables Restoring Hope For Patients With Disabilities
In 2016, Elon Musk, with many other pioneers, started Neuralink. Neuralink’s mission is to treat brain disorders, help people who have had accidents and create brain-machine interfaces, moving toward a potential symbiosis with AI. Although Neuralink is still in its early stages, the idea of an internal brain-body-mind connection continues to grow in the world of science.
Companies like Neuralink could have an immense impact on the healthcare industry. Patients who are paralyzed and bedridden might finally be able to communicate with their loved ones and connect to the digital world.
The technology could also have far-reaching implications for physical therapy and rehabilitation treatment for patients recovering from a stroke or amputation or patients with chronic neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease.
Artificial 3D Hearts Saving Lives
In 1983, Chuck Hull invented the first-ever 3D printer. Now, 3D printers are being used to try to print human organs.
According to the American Transplant Foundation, there are almost 114,000 people in the U.S. on the organ transplant waiting list. Someone new is added to that list every 10 minutes, and every day, an average of 20 people die from the lack of available organs. Organ transplants have always been highly complicated and a highly in-demand healthcare service.
Researchers from Tel Aviv University have a potential solution to this problem. The scientists have printed a 3D heart using human tissues that even includes vessels, collagen and biological components. 3D-printed organs could have significant implications for the field of organ transplants and could save thousands of lives.
Virtual Reality Gaming The Healthcare System
When we hear the words “virtual reality,” it might bring to our minds images of people wearing large, funky headsets and playing video games.
In healthcare applications, virtual reality can do so much more. Virtual reality uses computer technology to create a realistic environment for us. Unlike a movie, in which we are watching a scene, virtual reality can put us into that scene. Within the healthcare world, it has an incredible and far-reaching impact. For example, virtual reality is being used for medical education and the treatment of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
It is often difficult to truly understand what the world is like for someone other than ourselves. For healthcare workers, it may be challenging to know how a patient may feel or the unique challenges the patient may face. Virtual reality can help solve this issue. For example, Embodied Labs has created a program called We Are Alfred that simulates elderly patients’ real-life experiences and trains healthcare workers to understand how a patient’s fears and challenges might feel.
Virtual reality can also help us treat PTSD. UCF Restores is a University of Central Florida program that treats veterans and survivors of trauma using virtual reality to gently and carefully simulate appropriate environmental cues.
Peter Drucker is credited with saying, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” That’s something that the healthcare industry has taken to heart. Modern-day researchers and scientists are rushing against time to invent, implement and imagine life-altering, lifesaving, life-enhancing creations.
In the end, our lives will be better for it.