The Future of Healthcare

Dramatic improvements in healthcare over the last few centuries have carried humanity from the grips of early death to a renaissance of longevity and improving wellness. Today’s modern era has its own health challenges to be certain, but overall humans are living longer lives, thwarting once-fatal diseases, and mending debilitating wounds better than ever.

Healthcare will continue to be critical over the coming decades as the human population grows and ages at a rapid pace. Presuming that research and development receive adequate funding, allowing innovations to reach the market in an affordable way, some amazing changes should be in store for the world’s ailing, hurt and elderly.

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Here are four emerging innovations in healthcare that I believe will be the most transformative for medicine and wellness in years to come.

3D Printing

It has technically been around since 1984, but it has only recently witnessed an explosion in commercial usage, with the industry growing by 35.2 percent in 2014 alone. 3D printed products range across a variety of industries from toys to heavy industry, and healthcare is among the most propitious.

3D printers, which assemble products directly from a digital model with layers of manmade or organic material, can manufacture skin for burn victims, airway splints for weak lungs, and will soon reach fully functioning human organs. Though emerging technologies typically take time to become cost effective in hospitals, 3D printing is less expensive than other forms of manufacturing and will become mainstream much sooner assuming regulators get on board.

Implant Technology

Technology is starting to get under our skin — in both a figurative and literal sense. New electronic implants can be embedded into the human body to sense, record, and influence internal functionality. The possibilities are truly impressive: tiny devices that have the ability to detect and counteract seizures in epileptics, slow cell damage in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s patients, and even restore power to the blind, deaf, or paralyzed.

Many of the most extraordinary of these implants have not reached the mass market yet, and will require more testing to be proven effective, affordable, and safe for use. When implants become a viable alternative to medication, they will become an even more commonplace and revolutionary form of treatment.

Robotic Aides

Though the idea may make you think of the Jetsons’ maid, robot caretakers are already here with more to come soon. Though doctors and nurses will remain the primary medical personnel for decades to come, robotic assistants will augment their abilities to the benefit of patients both in and out of hospitals.

Robotic aides are already caring for the elderly. As the baby boomer generation continues to age, retire, and seek eldercare, even more opportunities will arise for robotic assistance.

Robots today can perform surgery, provide medical counsel remotely, assist in eating and child therapy, and deliver specimens in hospitals. Some robotic aides can perform the equivalent work of three human employees for the cost of less than one. As healthcare industries need of workers grows, these robotic helpers will be put to good use with thousands expected to enter hospitals in coming years.

Advanced Sensors

Wearable technology has been touted as the next big craze for tech and fashion, but its sensor functionality is perfectly suited for healthcare innovation. The growing popularity of fitness trackers makes clear that this type of technology has a bright future in tracking and relaying health information from a medical perspective.

Clinically accurate blood pressure monitors, smart hearing aids, clothing that tracks breathing and heart rate, and wearable infrared light therapy for chronic pain are all devices that recently debuted at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). That’s not to mention Google’s smart contact lenses, which will sense glucose levels for patients with diabetes, and other devices like smart pacemakers.

Among the most groundbreaking in sensor technology may be digestible sensors. These tiny pill-like contraptions transmit patient internal data to doctors as they move through the body and interacts with various organs.

These are just a few of the innovations that I foresee will change healthcare across the world as they continue being developed and move into the mass market. Imagine what these will do for quality of life and quality of treatment for our current generations and those to come.

Make Sleep Your New Priority

We do it every night, not just because we need to, but also because we like it. So then we have to ask ourselves why it is the first thing for us to cut out of our schedule? “Oh I just want to finish this task first,” makes us go to sleep later, while “Oh my gosh, there is so much I have to do before work,” makes us wake up even earlier. This is a huge problem that we are not only facing as individuals, but as a society. This is what I would call the sleep deprivation crisis, which is having a great effect on our health, job performance, relationships and happiness whether we realize it or not.

A little over 60 years ago, only 11% of us were getting less than six hours of sleep every night. Today, more than 40% of us get less than six hours. Raise your hand if you’re one of them! This is probably a leading reason that more than 60 million prescriptions are written every year for sleeping pills. It all adds up and in the end, sleep deprivation costs the U.S. economy about $63 billion every single year. That’s not all either. Drowsy drivers get into 328,000 accidents every year and 6,400 of them are fatal.

This is why we need a sleep revolution and it looks like it could already be beginning. Businesses, schools, medicine, sports, arts – all industries and sectors are recognizing the importance of sleep. Goldman Sachs has even banned interns from staying in the office overnight. Other top business leaders such as Cambell’s Soup CEO Denize Morison, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella have openly spoken about how they keep sleep as a high priority.

Even athletes are realizing that sleep is the ultimate performance-enhancing drug. Roger Federer says that if he does not get enough sleep, he does not feel right on the court. The world’s fastest man is with him too, saying that he needs to give his body rest and recover after hard training.

Let’s think about it. Sleep gives us the opportunity to connect with a deeper part of ourselves. All of the things that buzz around us – our jobs, relationships, emotions all cease during sleep. It is from this clearing of noise and clutter that we can awake the next morning rejuvenated and with fresh eyes – a reinvigorated spirit.

Insurance Tech Startups Are Where?

Since 2010, the number of companies that target the insurance tech space has risen by $2.12 billion and $1.39 billion of that has come just in the past year.

From tech-enabled health coverage and insurance tools for on-demand workers and use cases, the multi-trillion dollar insurance industry is the new epicenter for startups. If you haven’t been following what is going on with insurance tech startups, I have got the whole story for you.

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There are more funded startups operating in health insurance than all of the other insurance types combined – 56 percent of all insurance tech startups actually. Let’s take a step back and think about why. The Affordable Care Act was signed into law back in 2010 – this created new opportunities for consumer health insurance providers. Health insurance tech companies like Oscar, Navera, Gravie, Stride Health and more have risen a great wealth in funding since last year. The other 44 percent of tech insurance companies are into auto insurance comparison engines, insured storage services for bitcoin and crop insurance tools.

From 2010 to now, the number of investors in the insurance tech ecosystem has also skyrocketed from less than 20 to over 300. New investors in the spaces include Founders Fund, Adreeessen Horowitz and even corporate venture capital investors like Mayo Clinic and BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners.

You bet the big insurance providers are increasing their investments in private tech companies too. Just last year, the tech startup deal activity by insurance companies increased by 460 percent. There are target areas where insurance firms have focused on such as price comparison, parking, auto insurance and robo-advisors to name a few. Below, you can take a look at just how diverse the insurance tech startups are in our present market.

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Even though it is a year away, many of the candidates for the 2016 United States presidency race want to abolish Obamacare. What impact, if any can you imagine this posing on the number of insurance tech startups that focus on health care? In a year, there could be another change in law that will make another industry more important than health. Will the legalization of cannabis in the treatment of medical ailments continue to develop in a way that will make an impact? Regardless, the numbers are certainly surprising when you stop and take a look; I hope that I opened your eyes to something new.