5 new technologies & trends in healthcare worth following in 2023

30 March 2023
Artificial intelligence has been widely discussed for some time, but this year is game-changing for AI. At the end of 2022, OpenAI launched ChatGPT – a Large Language Model (LLM)-driven chatbot.
ChatGPT enables natural conversations with a machine. The artificial intelligence system can be asked to do literally anything, even to write a poem or a thesis. The style is so similar to the human conversation style that it’s hard to determine that the text was written by algorithms. AI can be now asked to generate pictures, videos, and music. In February 2023, Google joined the AI race by presenting its new Bart chat. To prove ChatGPT’s abilities, it’s enough to mention that the chatbot passed the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination in January 2023, answering 60% of the questions correctly. Recently, Google and DeepMind created the medical version of ChatGPT. It’s called Med-PaLM. While Google’s search engine is based on the popularity of search results, Med-PaLM makes use of medical knowledge: reliable publications, research papers, and trusted medical websites. It can be expected that chats based on natural language processing will soon provide answers to patients’ health-related questions and let physicians double-check their decisions. Another use will be analyzing EHR data and correlating it with the latest research – a physician will ask AI for specific data instead of wasting time on clicking. VIRTUAL WARDS Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) announced increasing the number of virtual wards by 500%. This is one response to the NHS crisis – waiting lists are getting longer, while new health monitoring technologies make treating patients in their homes possible. Virtual wards or virtual hospitals are a treatment model in which – whenever possible – a patient stays at home. A healthcare facility has mobile medical teams with a nurse and/or physician regularly visiting the patient. The patient is constantly monitored through telemedicine devices. Such a solution has made it possible to treat many COVID-19 patients at home, tracking blood oxygen level, blood pressure, temperature, and pulse, among others. Since it has proved its safety, it will be now applied more often to chronic patients. VIRTUAL HEALTHCARE Patients “forced” to use teleconsultations during the Covid-19 pandemic got used to them and even grew to like them. Who would’ve expected that – before 2019, skepticism about telemedicine was prevalent. Healthcare facilities invested in devices and IT systems, and doctors are increasingly eager to provide virtual consultations, mainly since they can issue e-prescriptions and e-referrals. With the pandemic fading away, the number of teleconsultations has fallen but remains at a constant high level. According to the newest Deloitte “Health Care Outlook 2023” report, telehealth will be one of the significant trends. On the one hand, it is convenient for the patient, but on the other hand, it is a necessity for any healthcare system: medical staff shortages are getting more and more severe, and the cost of care is rising disproportionately to the patients outcomes while waiting lists are getting longer. Telehealth is designed to offer more equitable access to medical services at any time, regardless of location. So far, teleconsultations are simply a copy of traditional appointments in a doctor’s office. Still, with the evolution of e-health technologies (smartwatches and home diagnostic technologies), a physician will be able to get many results of vital signs measurements immediately during an online visit. We are still at the beginning of what telemedicine has to offer. SMART HOMES Smartphones and smartwatches measure physical activity, sleep quality, and blood pressure. Next will be blood sugar testing without finger pricking, a technology Apple and other tech giants are developing. More and more advanced medical testing can be conducted at home. Early this year, during CES 2023, Withings – a company known for smart scales and smartwatches – presented the world’s first home urine lab. U-Scan is placed in a toilet, just like a toilet cube. So far, it measures three parameters (LH level, pH level, and specific gravity), but the manufacturer has already announced additional tests and certification of the innovation as a medical device. What’s the impact of the technology? For example, patients with certain chronic diseases will be able to perform daily urine tests without visiting a laboratory. U-Scan will be available later this year for EUR 499.95. It recognizes the urine of household members and resets itself after each toilet flushing. Researchers from Stanford University recently developed a method of measuring blood parameters from only one drop of blood. Next in line are home blood tests, as easy as pricking a finger to test blood sugar. And this time, it’s Stanford, not a startup that a few years ago promised something similar and failed. PRESCRIPTION APPS Instead of a classical prescription, the patient receives a prescription for a mobile health application, which aims to facilitate health management and lifestyle changes. This solution is already functioning in Belgium and Germany and will be implemented in France in spring 2023. Digital therapeutics (DTx) are a new form of medicine, which is expected to be helpful in the treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases and some mental illnesses such as anxiety and mild depression. Some of them can be well managed by changing habits and exercising regularly. How? That is the task of the apps, which create an individual preventive or therapeutic plan, guide the patient through the next steps and monitor the progress. The effectiveness of some DTx has been clinically proven; therefore, these are medical devices, not fitness gadgets anymore. In the German model, prescriptions for DTx are reimbursed.