November 22, 2019 | Updated: December 15, 2020
For many in the world, access to premium healthcare and wellness services are not easily attainable. Inconsistencies in medical diagnoses, long travel times to hospitals and lack of resources often make it difficult for rural patients to receive the care they desperately need.
“We need to bring technology to the user, and avoid the danger that such technology will only be affordable by a small percentage of people ” says IEEE member Kerstin Dautenhahn. “We need low-cost solutions that are ideally freely available to all. That’s my personal vision.”
Luckily, new health technologies are emerging to someday help provide more well-rounded access. We asked our IEEE Impact Creators to share their insights on the AI-focused technologies they believe will limit the healthcare gap in the future.
1. Sensor Technologies
“Currently, the range and quality of healthcare is inconsistent,” says IEEE Fellow Karen Panetta. “In some cases people go into hospitals for one ailment and come out with other ailments that were introduced by unsanitary conditions or resulting from poor communication or misunderstanding of patient cases.
“Artificial intelligence and new sensor technology will help break this vicious cycle, by introducing new technology to detect bacteria such as staph infections and ensure that health workers remain compliant with safety protocols,” says Panetta.
2. Telehealth and Digital Calling
Physical location is often a big deterrent for rural patients to receive the care they need. In large countries like China, patients must commute days and pay a large sum of money for the transit. Now with technologies like telehealth and digital calling, a patient has the ability to quickly see top doctors without having to make a physical trip.
“Providing care untethered from a physical location means a child in Sumter county, Alabama can potentially be seen by a pediatric cardiologist at Rainbow Babies and Children’s hospital, and referred to a consultation later the same day by a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania,” says IEEE member Doug Walled.
Telehealth is also a great way for doctors to come together and work to solve rare diseases or illnesses.
“Along with remote diagnosis, physicians are able to effectively utilise their time to be spent with multiple patients from multiple geographies,” says IEEE member Jayakrishnan Thrivikraman Nair. “This will also enable a pool of experts from various locations to collectively address a problem and make decisions when it comes to complicated issues.”
3. Wearable Technologies
Wearable technologies are great for daily maintenance to check vitals. As these watches and other wearables become more accessible, patients in rural areas will be able to easily track their health and send their data to a healthcare professional to update their charts.
“More and more it is a question of scalability and quality of care,” says IEEE member Antonio Espingardeiro. “As the worldwide population increases we will need to monitor our health through different ways. We will need more periodic checks and doing it through daily routines almost in an unconscious way.”
As these three technologies continue to advance and become more accessible, rural patients will be able to receive the type of care they desperately need, without the hefty price tag associated with it.