Technologies Disrupting Health Care Today

We're heading towards a major disruption in health care technology.

Author and inventor Ray Kurzweil is most known for his predictions regarding technology and its increasing effect on our everyday lives. Most famously, he predicted the explosive growth of the Internet in 1990.

More recently, his predictions include:

  • By 2020, a computer will match processing speed of the human brain (about 20 billion calculations per second).
  • By 2030, a computer will match the brain power of a small village (about 1000 human minds).

Today, computers can detect sarcasm, read emotions, interpret facial expressions, and understand body language. We’ve also seen computers detect deviation from standard patterns of thinking and behavior. It’s hard to argue against Kurzweil’s predictions becoming reality.

As health care and technology have long been mutually exclusive, it appears that we’re heading towards a major disruption. Here’s where it’s happening:

Google

We obviously begin here, and with this premise: Google knows more about you than you. Don’t believe me? Google it.

If you accept that, then you understand that Google owns all of our data, and in this case, the company will use it to advance health care. According to the Huffington Post, “If they find a sweet spot of ensuring the privacy of our data but leveraging it to further health technology, [Google] may be able to affect major changes such as a cancer-detecting pill, smart contact lens for diabetic patients, and even a medical record open-sharing platform.”

IBM

Five years ago, IBM’s Watson beat the 2 most successful candidates in “Jeopardy” history with a buzzer. Since then, Watson’s been going to medical school, being taught by the best oncologists and oncology data from Memorial Sloan Kettering and WellPoint.

23andMe

After patients completed genetic tests, they were offered health information, and people came in droves to 23andMe; however, in 2013, the FDA deemed that this couldn’t continue. Fortunately for 23andMe, the company had already been in business for 7 years and sold 800,000 genetic test kits. This large database of genetic information is considered extremely valuable, and in 2015, 23andMe announced plans to use it to invent medicines.

Medisafe

About half of all Americans prescribed a medication take it regularly, and about half of those take it properly. In 2012, Medisafe launched a medication management platform that reminds patients to take their medications via a smartphone or tablet. In 2014, the company revealed that type 2 diabetic users of its technology had adherence rates of 26% higher than standard rates for long-term therapies.

Pillpack

Twenty percent of Americans take 5 or more prescription drugs, and managing those medications is a challenge. Robots sort pills into personalized packets, saving money on human labor and improving the patient experience. A recent article in Forbes says that Pillpack “could change the way America takes its medicine.”

Apple + other wearables

Wearables started with just movement, heart rate, and sleep, and understandably, the competition was fierce, ranging from giants like Samsung and Nike to upstarts like Fitbit and Jawbone. Ever since, a growing long tail has emerged that includes temperature, respiration, skin conductance, brain activity, hydration, posture, glucose, oxygen, heart rate variability, muscle activity, blood pressure, eye tracking, and ingestion. We’re about to be inundated with data such that we can tell much more from the virtual patient than the live one.

Just this week, Mark Zuckerberg boldly announced his presence at this table with the creation of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Although nothing but an announcement (on Facebook, of course) has happened yet, it comes with a commitment of $45 billion in stock over time.

“Medicine has only been a real science for less than 100 years, and we've already seen complete cures for some diseases and good progress for others,” Zuckerberg announced. “As technology accelerates, we have a real shot at preventing, curing, or managing all or most of the rest in the next 100 years.”

No one really knows whether we’ll be able to match the brain power of a small village by 2030, but we can feel certain that this investment into a technological advancement of health care will pay vast dividends in the future.