The Future of Healthcare – Is Technology Changing it?

Kevin Parmenter, Field Applications Manger, Taiwan Semiconductor



Many readers might know that the US is ranked 37th in the world for quality of medical care by the CDC, yet we pay more than twice of what the next country pays. How can we spend so much and get so little? It’s certainly not due to the lack of technology.  Recently, I went for my annual checkup and my doctor said she was retiring out of medicine.  I asked why?  She said, “I’m a data entry clerk, I stare into the screen and type all day.”  

The unfortunate consequence of technology and computers is, like most of us, the finance, operations department plus lawyers have turned us all into data entry clerks, and this includes medicine too - it’s good for “them”, bad for everyone else. So “it’s for shareholder value and because its policy” will be the reply.  The government and insurance companies working hand and hand (with money changing between those hands most likely) have contributed to this bureaucracy.  Now how can technology fix this?

Surgical robots will soon include AI, and anyone near a surgical robotic system will have access to talent which replicates the best surgeons on earth. Fantastic. The other side of this is, what about the data?  The data collected by robotic surgery systems might have unintended consequences.   Robot-assisted (or complete robotic) surgery is a big business expected to be a 24-billion-dollar market by 2025, according to a recent article in Undark. 

Historically, surgery has been done by… actual, surgeons. Every snip and suture and move were known only to the surgeon, and if things went well, then thumbs up — patient is OK, here’s the bill.  Now everything is going to be monitored, pre-approved for ROI, recorded and accessible to the insurance company, hospital administration, whomever – HIPPA law does not apply to the insurance companies after all. 

What if they get to decide what’s best for you, and the shareholders (and of course this data) will be needed to make sure you are billed for every snip and motor movement?  With the IoT in medical products and everything wirelessly connected, it's in everyone’s best interests to design very high security into the systems so that only needed data is shared and that is highly secure.  I am hopeful that technology can offer us the ability to stay out of the messed up medical system in the first place – overseeing your own health using wearables and monitoring and keeping away other than for checkups and screening is probably the way to go.  

My grandfather was a squared-away WWII vet, and one of his famous quotes was – “if you aren’t sick when you go into the hospital you will be when you get out.”  Perhaps it’s still true – you might have to file bankruptcy now, too, when you get the bill.  Having said that, diagnostics is on the rise – medical imaging, clinical chemistry analysis instrumentation including DNA analysis systems are making advancements at a rapid rate. 

In the 1950’s, the rate of medical knowledge doubled every 50 years. By 1980, it was 7.5 years, by 2010 it was 3.5 years, and with current projections, in 2020, medical knowledge will double every 73 days.  Much of these results from IoT, AI, advanced computing and electronics technology advancements including power electronics.