Digital medicine moves health-care professionals from the written and printed word into a revolutionary period. Medical records are stored in cloud computing, where clinical data are gleaned and diagnoses are speedily determined. Medical knowledge is generated. The digital data lead to magistral treatment plans including medicines, therapies, biotech wearables, and devices. Digitized data shared globally across mobile devices and computers stimulate open access input from a wide range of medical and health-care specialists, pharmaceutical and laboratory professionals, and patients.
Moving forward, digital medicine presents exciting opportunities for extending life and preserving the patient’s health, safety, and comfort. For instance, technology will increasingly be used to identify the location of patients, sense patient status, and transmit information persistently to doctors and health-tech monitors over mobile devices. Big data will become more important in deciding patient treatment plans and in public health management. Nurses on hospital floors and community emergency services will be notified over digital technology where and when a person needs medical assistance. Emergency services can dispatch EMTs on a moment’s notice without the delays of phone calls and human interactions through 911 stations.
Looking forward, companies such as Daqri innovating with wearables, implantable monitors, patches, and micro-electrical mechanical smart-system technologies will advance neuroscience. A headband is under testing that gauges the user’s focus by measuring the brain’s electrical activity. The data might lead to better, more precise therapies for people with head trauma, limb rejuvenation, or congenital defects.
Big data collection (the collection of enormous amounts of digitized data) and digital analytics are already helping groups such as the World Health Organization to isolate populations, design and test medicines and vaccines, and design prevention and treatment protocols leading to the eradication of diseases such as Ebola and AIDS. Big data are critical in digital medicine and will remain so in the future.
One conclusion from doctoral student John M. Young at Syracuse University (2014) is that big data from life sciences research including genetics, biomed, computational biology, and nanomaterial sciences “are quickly making their way into point-of-care decisions (e.g., shared physician and consumer decisions about treatment plans).”
Women opting for mastectomies to save their lives may base their decisions and physicians’ recommendations on big data collections and analytics. The data suggest a propensity for contracting breast cancer has genetic links passed on by mothers or from genetic mutations putting them at high risk for breast cancer. Young quotes a government official, “A scientist without data is a philosopher.”
We will see more privatization of digital medicine looking forward. Companies including Google, Apple, IBM, and Microsoft are expanding their investments in consumer health-care technology, while smaller players are entering discreet digital medicine sectors. Garmin designs, manufactures, and markets GPS navigation, communication, and sonar equipment. Garmin is expanding into fitness devices and wellness offerings, eyeing the corporate market and leading to lower health-care costs through digital technology.
Digital medicine looking forward will become more dependent on algorithms, intelligent software, and machine learning, according to a 2015 survey report by Accenture Healthcare. This has serious implications for the medical training of physicians, nurses, laboratory techs, pharmacists, and tech aids.
Researchers conclude medicine will be driven by the expanding use of clinical data requiring people in health care to manage hardware including robots and other intelligent machines. The entire workforce in the age of digital medicine is being reimagined.