Extreme Automation: How New Digital Health Initiative Can Save Billions in Global Healthcare Costs

By Lori Cameron
Published 07/29/2018
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doctor using ipad for digital health automation

As the cost of healthcare skyrockets, nations are competing to bring revolutionary products and services to healthcare systems in what is called a new  “digital health initiative” that promises to save consumers and healthcare providers billions.

The initiative uses “extreme automation” to integrate thousands of healthcare systems, databases, programs, and apps into a seamless global network of fast, remote, highly specialized healthcare services.

Until recently, digital health apps and medical devices have been developed in “relative isolation from each other,” say researchers Jinan Fiaidhi and Sabah Mohammed of Lakehead University.

But now, industry giants like Google and Apple are investing aggressively in integrated digital health by “turning data into action, improving patient health, promoting preventive care, enhancing patient engagement, providing advance care management, and contributing to the advancement of population health management,” add Fiaidhi and Mohammed, authors of “Digital Health in the Era of Extreme Automation,” (login may be required for full text) which appears in the May/June 2018 issue of IT Professional.

In addition, thousands of smaller startups are developing apps to monitor health, manage chronic disease, and customize care plans. Some apps even offer patients the option of tele-health visits versus in-office patient visits.

The digital health initiative is moving to combine all of these efforts into a strong, integrated network of services.

Delivering healthcare remotely and efficiently

The system will allow patients access to general sources of health information and their own health records. Doctors and other healthcare stakeholders will also be able to access and share information among themselves to provide fast, efficient care to patients.

“The new automation model of digital health is based on collecting and connecting health-related data from all available sources, extracting meaningful information from that data, and providing that information to other healthcare stakeholders. Digital health assistive technologies also help patients access care more efficiently, delivering services where the patient is located when he or she needs it in a convenient manner,” the authors say.

Digital health frontlines in the era of extreme automation.
Digital health frontlines in the era of extreme automation.

IoT and healthcare

You are probably familiar with health and fitness apps and wearables that monitor your calorie intake, alcohol consumption, heart rate, temperature, steps taken, and so on.

However, the latest frontiers in digital health capture the imagination, often leveraging the Internet of Things. Here is a sampling:

  • Graftworx is developing an Internet of the Body solution that connects medical devices to cardiovascular patients so clinicians can easily access their generated data.
  • TrustedHealth uses blockchain technology for healthcare, securely digitizing and decentralizing the way patients seek treatment for specific conditions in an extreme automation environment.
  • Aira has developed a platform that uses extreme automation to enhance the everyday experiences of blind and visually impaired people through the use of miniaturized sensors, augmented reality glasses, auditory perception, and smartphone connection.

Aira’s visual interpreter for the blind and patients with low vision.

  • NovoGen MMX, developed by Organovo, is the world’s first production 3D bioprinter with two robotic print heads. One places human cells and the other places a hydrogel, scaffold, or other type of support. From printing prosthetic limbs and surgical devices to using cells to print human organs, experiments in this industry are progressing quickly.

Organovo’s bioprinting process centers around the identification of key architectural and compositional elements of a target tissue, and the creation of a design that can be utilized by a bioprinter to generate that tissue in the laboratory environment.
  • Affectiva is among those companies working to build “empathetic” interfaces that help caregivers understand their patient’s emotions. They have compiled a vast corpus of data consisting of 6 million face videos collected in 87 countries, allowing an AI engine to be tuned for real expressions of emotion in the wild and to account for cultural differences in emotional expression.

Affectiva creates digital content and technology products that are informed by human emotions.

We are entering a new era in healthcare management that promises to improve care while bringing down costs.

“With changes come new challenges and opportunities, as well as a dramatic shift in the competitive and regulatory landscape. We have only touched the surface of this exciting topic,” the authors conclude.


Research related to digital health in the Computer Society Digital Library

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About Lori Cameron

Lori Cameron is a Senior Writer for the IEEE Computer Society and currently writes regular features for Computer magazine, Computing Edge, and the Computing Now and Magazine Roundup websites. Contact her at l.cameron@computer.org. Follow her on LinkedIn.