New challenges

Advances in this field are responsible for not just the extension of the human lifespan, but also for improvements in our quality of life. This has changed the landscape of human disease. Over the past few decades chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, cardiac ailments, or dementia, have become significantly more prevalent. A consequence of this is increased pressure on healthcare systems worldwide which are faced with the need to provide prolonged care. In a way, healthcare is a victim of its own success, as new challenges have arisen from its effectiveness in treating life-threatening diseases.

The treatment of acute illnesses also presents new challenges. For example, one of the most important problems to be faced this century is microbial resistance to antibiotics. Preserving the effectiveness of currently available medicines and finding new ones must be a research priority for all of science and technology.

Monitored healthcare
Woman on an elliptical exercising
Smart health measurements

An approach to help solve the problems discussed above (among others) is to use a set of techniques broadly known as Smart Healthcare. This is the application of modern developments in IT and communications technology to improve healthcare, alleviate pressure on workers and services, and accelerate research. Proposed systems for this purpose have a specific focus on Internet of Things-style approaches, which combine wearable or ingestible sensors, mobile phone applications, cloud computing, machine learning, and data mining, among others. The aim is to combine these technologies in the near future to create an array of medical services which can be provided over the internet. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

· Continuous monitoring

· Personalized treatments

· Remote healthcare

· Virtual assistance, including augmented and virtual reality tools

· Data-driven research fueled by real-time data, high performance and artificial intelligence


Unsurprisingly, the implementation of smart healthcare presents a wide range of issues

Healthcare services are some of the largest-scale operations in the world (in the United Kingdom, NHS England employs 1.4 million people). Even when considering only local or regional services, the number of professionals and patients involved is huge. Pivoting these large organizations is extremely difficult. It requires adapting a multitude of long-ingrained formal procedures and informal habits to new modes of operation.

Medical tools are expensive, sophisticated, and produce large amounts of sensitive data. Systems controllers and other software tools are provided by a multitude of suppliers. Therefore, incorporating them into the ecosystem can be troublesome. In addition, each device or system may present its own vulnerabilities which make healthcare susceptible to network attacks. Guaranteeing system safety and data privacy is difficult, which significantly hinders the implementation of smart healthcare.

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