Future medical technology is nowhere near floatation tubes or de-aging machines. What the world is seeing however, is a shift towards the beginnings of technologies unearthed by the ongoing pandemic that could act as seeds for more radical innovations later on.
As some countries attempt to ease certain areas of the lockdown to pump some life blood into society for a while, everyone is once again looking to doctors and medical researchers for solutions. A second – possibly more mild – wave of the virus, however, is not out of the question. In fact, it might be inevitable in some areas, which means that these are sensitive times. Governments are then looking to tackle possible outbreaks of Covid-19 and any future ordeals preemptively having seen the consequences of unpreparedness.
The ongoing virus has spurred innovation in areas such as communication technology and green energy, and stimulated a more sincere awareness of public health and safety by individuals at large.
Future medical technology will be riding the telecom train, as improvements such as 5G are made for wireless communication. Faster more available connectivity will enable advancements to be made with medical devices, such as wearable and implantable technologies, sensors, and remote robotic surgery. Wearers and users of such devices will then require not only a sturdy connection, but its interconnectedness gives it further uses, in that of data collection and analysis.
With the spread of IoT products, the incorporation of cloud, and the advent of AI, came the vast amounts of data that are constantly being collected. Future medical technology will be interwoven with data webs.
This data can help doctors and researchers make valuable, actionable insights derived from millions of personality and clinical devices.
The wearer won’t get an ad for a mobile game playing into their hearing aid hopefully, but the devices are made to be able to do vital, possibly lifesaving actions.
Examples include administering insulin on schedule or with the push of a button on a smartphone, or predicting a heart failure by analyzing symptoms. Monitoring elderly or infants and keeping healthcare workers and relatives informed.
Such products can greatly increase the quality of life for thousands, and would decrease the cost of healthcare as it stands due to an increase in preventive care and preemptive treatment.
With the evolution and adaptability of human viruses, it is clear that we too must evolve alongside human technology. This makes not only collecting real-time data and using it to take action necessary, but it must be replicable and scalable too. With technologies like 3D printing becoming more popular, this can be achieved. Printing not only surgical tools and patient specific prosthetics and models, but tissues and organoids as well.
As medical technology develops, many questions are raised concerning reliability and security of such advancements. These are questions that will be answered as time goes on.
The pandemic’s hidden digital divide
The current pandemic has really opened our eyes to the importance of interconnectivity. Lockdowns, curfews, and quarantines helped us realize how our progress and prosperity is a function dependent upon one other, and we can clearly see this on an individual-micro level and on a group-macro level (companies, groups, governments).
The larger the company, the more complex the ecosystem of partners and their interdependence. Studies show that this is particularly true in developing countries where brewing beer sustains millions of livelihoods dependent on a fragmented and traditional trade such as corner shops, grocery stores and small retail.
Naturally, as a company grows larger, a more complex ecosystem of partners is required, but what about smaller micro retailers? The current pandemic has shed light on a critical weakness for small retailers. In most developed countries, the general consensus is that citizens enjoy high speed internet access therefore transitioning a business from brick-and-mortar to online seems relatively straightforward (with some training and practice). However, when we look at other countries where Wi-Fi is not as readily available, or when citizens have to walk lengthy distances to access Wi-Fi, that’s when you understand the daily impact of the digital divide.
As the pandemic continues, access to technology becomes another source of vulnerability and inequality as smaller retailers struggle to make the shift to digital, which only makes it harder for them to deliver across their value chain. Businesses that played vital roles in their communities are now unable to meet the growing demands online.
The pandemic has forced us to face the issue of the digital divide; while some might think we are all moving toward a digitally enabled future, the reality is that there are many communities across the world still falling behind. The issue of what needs to be done rests in the hands of governments and leaders worldwide to ensure that digital inclusion is extended to all citizens and disadvantaged groups.
UK to rollout first-round of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
The British Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recently gave the green light to rollout the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for commercial use in the UK.
The first batch of vaccines are already making their way to the UK, with 800,000 units expected in the coming days. Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said that the NHS will do its part in contacting people for the vaccine shot.
Based on vaccine storage requirements (-70°C), hospitals will be the first to receive supplies since they already have the correct storage facilities; the first round will likely take place in hospitals for care home staff, NHS staff and patients.
While the typical vaccine usually takes 10 years to be fully accepted, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was developed and introduced in just 10 months.
The UK has ordered enough units to vaccinate 20 million people – around 40 million doses in total. These doses will be given out as soon as they are made available by Pfizer in Belgium. The first round is expected next week, and “several millions” will be made available throughout December said Hancock. He also added that the majority of the rollout will take place next year.
The vaccine will be free, and it will not be mandatory. In addition, there are 3 ways of vaccinating citizens in the UK
- Vaccination Centers
- In the community, with general practitioners and pharmacists
As we speak, 50 hospitals are on stand-by and vaccination centers in venues like conference centers or sport stadiums are now being set up. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will hopefully mark the beginning of the end of the pandemic.
New technology has made COVID-19 group tests possible
An independent technology and product development company, The Technology Partnership (TTP) has developed CoTest, a pooled screening device for conducting COVID-19 group tests.
The vaccine is coming but when and who will get it first still remains unclear, but what is for sure is that testing cannot stop now, or in the next year at the very least. TTP states that their solution allows tests to be done on up to 40 people at a time, revealing the result within 30 minutes.
The equipment used for testing is reportedly easy to handle – samples are taken the conventional way, through a nasal or oral swab.
“We believe this technology represents an important step forward in distributed screening capacity, reducing the risk of transmission and allowing organizations to take greater control over their health security, stay open and relieve pressure on central services”.
Given the easy use and transportation of the CoTest, businesses and institutions of all kinds may want to get their hands on it. Essentially the COVID-19 group tests are just one test, but for up to 40 people at a time. This is an empowering level of efficiency that can take the load off central testing centers and labs while providing a more immediate response.
“With support, it’s entirely possible that ‘CoTest’ could be in schools and businesses and being used as a key tool in how we manage the virus.” said Peter Crossley, product development lead at TTP. The cost efficiency of this technology becomes increasingly powerful as infection rates decrease and health security monitoring becomes key.”
TTP is seeking more partners to push their new COVID-19 group test solution, which could prove to be a crucial tool in the coming months and years. While the world waits for a vaccine, we will have to continue finding ways of mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
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