Healthcare innovation trends: 5 technologies that are disrupting the global health sector
The disease burden of developing countries such as India, Indonesia, Mali, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda is at an all time high due to the epidemic of Non Communicable Diseases that are plaguing these countries. ‘Disability Adjusted Life Years’, the years of life lost due to being afflicted by a disease (the standardized metric that allow for direct comparison of burdens of different diseases) is estimated to be 40,000-70,000 DALYs per 100,000 individuals in developing countries as compared to 10,000-30,000 DALYs per 100,000 in developed regions such as Europe and the Americas.
In such a challenging scenario, the silver lining is that technology has evolved to such an extent that it is now possible to provide affordable and quality healthcare at scale to service the healthcare needs of these regions. We take a look at few of the major technologies that are disrupting healthcare as we know it.
Electronic Health Records
Patient records management in developing countries is a disaster and often critical data is shoddily handled due to paper based systems. Prescription data, test data, allergy history and more that is critical to quality healthcare is now being maintained digitally through Electronic Health Records which have made it possible to automatically upload prescriptions, diagnosis, test results and more to the cloud for safekeeping as soon as they are generated. EHR records can also be configured to create multiple copies and send them to patients as emails or SMSes to help patients get easy access to their data. This minimizes human error associated with records management and helps both doctors and patients have access to data as and when they need it.
One of the critical failings in the healthcare infrastructure of developing countries is the utter lack of qualified medical professionals and the poor doctor to patient ratio. Mobile Health is helping to bridge the gap by helping doctors have access to patient data across the world using mobile health tracking apps. Doctors leveraging mHealth services treat multiple patients at once with limited or no in person check in required and occasional phone check ins.
In urban areas and developed settings mHealth services are helping solve a different set of problem areas such as tracking personal health, doorstep delivery of drugs, booking doctors appointments and door step diagnostics focussed around patient convenience.
The future wave of blockbuster drugs are going to be sensor based. US Health regulators have already approved a working patent for a drug tracking system which would track the intake of drugs by schizophrenic, bipolar and patients suffering from depression to better track their medical conditions as well as their adherence. Salt grain-sized sensors have now been invented that are implanted into drugs and activate on coming in contact with the patient’s stomach acids, continually transmitting vital patient information to their doctors, these drugs are creating an entirely new category of “digital medicines.”
Most of medicine has worked under the assumption that all human have an identical biological makeup and hence they will invariably react the same way to medication. Over time it has become clear that not everyone’s bodies are made the same way, they may differ in their sensitivities, allergies, and reactions to the same active ingredient. Acknowledging this breakthrough approach, pharma companies are moving away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to personalized medicine where drugs are formulated based on the genetic makeup of the individual to eliminate trial-and-error inefficiencies that inflate health care costs and undermine patient care. Hereditary diseases such as Heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Diabetes can be treated more effectively and efficiently using such innovation.
New drug delivery systems
Novel drug delivery platforms such as Oral Thin Films, quick dissolving films that are assimilated directly into the bloodstream are paving the way for quick painless and more convenient drugs. This is especially helpful for children, bedridden, elderly and mentally challenged patients who suffer during oral-administration of drugs due to difficulties swallowing tablets/capsules. Oral Thin Films have increased ‘Bioavailability’, lower excipient load, and are quick acting and Big Pharma is slowly warming up to these platforms due to the undeniable patient benefits.
India based Zim Labs is one the major players in the Oral Thin Film’s space with their industry leading Thinoral proprietary technology. The platform has 24 Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) approvals and enjoys widespread adoption in the Pharma industry. Drugs manufactured on the Thinoral® platform are currently being exported to 25+ countries across the globe.
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