Medical supplies tracked and maintained through the use of smartphones in Uganda. Drones that ferry donated plasma to rural areas of Rwanda. New and novel treatments derived thanks to machine learning and artificial intelligence.
More than perhaps any other time in history, people all over the world are benefitting from the enormous scope and power of innovation in medical technology to improve health and promote better treatment outcomes. Healthcare today is truly global healthcare, with world-class services in the sector now potentially available to anyone, anywhere, anytime thanks to technological innovation.
Thanks to the explosive growth of information technology and other innovations in the healthcare space, patients, doctors, and healthcare organizations the world over now have immediate access to the best healthcare information and treatment options known to medical science.
Innovative Technology and Healthcare
It’s important to remember that in our globalized world, not all innovation starts in the West and gets exported elsewhere. Today, health innovation can come from developing countries just as easily and can penetrate more developed markets where there’s a need.
General Electric’s team in China, for example, designed a portable ultrasound meant to be plugged into a laptop for ease of use in remote rural areas around the world. This handheld ultrasound costs less than $8,000 (compared to $100,000+ for a traditional ultrasound). It is now available in the United States where healthcare and healthcare technology costs can prevent medical services from being available to those in poor or rural areas.
Robotics in Healthcare
With a global population that is ageing, healthcare providers are turning to robotics to aid in the monitoring of elderly patients and performing basic chores around hospitals.
The “Robear” robot developed in Japan, for example, helps patients get out of bed or into and out of wheelchairs, freeing members of the staff to focus on more specialized medical tasks. Robots and chatbots can also be relied upon to deliver personalized or timed reminders to patients to take medications or attend appointments.
Telepresence robots—essentially computers on wheels that allow for remote interaction with physicians—are a booming business. Affordable with even advanced models available in the $700-$2,000 price range, telepresence robots are a growing part of what is expected to be a $10.7 billion global medical robotic systems market by 2026.
Social Media in Healthcare
Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google have fundamentally changed the way we communicate and share information in our daily lives, and that is no different when it comes to healthcare.
Social media not only connects doctors to patients more efficiently, but it also enables patients (for good and for ill) to seek second opinions more actively.
For healthcare providers, social media allows for enhanced opportunities to market government and hospital services, as well as to disseminate accurate health information to both healthcare professionals and the general public.
While no social media interaction is an adequate replacement for primary care by trained healthcare providers, social media can foster more in-depth and comprehensive interactions between patients and providers, thus improving the health outcomes.
Source: Mass General Hospital
Automation in Healthcare
Automation in healthcare, as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence, are reshaping the sector just as surely as they are other industries. Already we are beginning to reap the rewards of leveraging these technologies in the healthcare space the world over.
Nigerian health tech company Aajoh uses AI for fast, remote medical diagnoses in areas underserved by physicians. Patients can input symptoms into an app, receive an instant diagnosis, and even be provided with information about where to purchase any prescribed medication. Such innovations are crucial to boosting healthcare accessibility and efficiency in a country with a 1:4,000 doctor-to-patient ratio.
Google Health has developed an AI diagnostic tool that outperforms human radiologists in diagnosing lung cancer. Trained on more than 45,000 patient CT scans, Google’s algorithm detected 5% more cancer cases and had 11% fewer false positives than a human control group.
Likewise, UK start-up BenevolentAI is leveraging AI to sift through the more than 2 million peer-reviewed research papers, clinical trial results, and other sources of biomedical information that are published each year. They are searching for overlooked relationships between genes, drugs and disease that it wouldn’t be possible for humans to detect from such an extensive data set.
In February 2020, a similar effort by a team from MIT and Harvard that looked for novel uses amongst a library of 6,000 pre-existing drug compounds discovered a potentially revolutionary new antibiotic that can fight nearly every antibiotic-resistant bacteria that it was tested against.
Cloud Computing in Healthcare
One of the chief advantages of cloud computing in healthcare is the ability for rapid, dispersed collaboration between researchers, diagnosticians, and other medical professionals. With distance no longer a barrier to innovation and collaboration, researchers the world over can make rapid strides in the treatment of disease that would not have been possible with such speed only a few years ago.
With the scarcity of specialized laboratories in developing nations, devices like the Nikon Coolscope digital microscope facilitate accurate sample analysis even in remote locations. The Coolscope allows images of tissue samples to be digitized and shared via the cloud with specialized diagnostic facilities around the world. With analysis available in as few as 30 minutes, live potentially be saved thanks to this cloud-based collaboration.
Likewise, some of China’s biggest cloud computing businesses, including divisions of Alibaba and Huawei, have put their advanced cloud capabilities at the disposal of global research institutions free of charge to help them collaborate and innovate to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Efforts to sequence the genome of the virus, to screen drugs that might be useful in treating coronavirus, analyze CT scans of potentially infected patients, and coordinate the logistics of medical supplies to affected areas have all been sped along thanks to cloud computing.
Evolve’s LIFE ETF
With all the technological innovations taking place in global healthcare, there are tremendous opportunities for investors to take advantage of in this burgeoning field.
The Evolve Global Healthcare Enhanced Yield Fund (LIFE ETF) provides investors with exposure to twenty global blue-chip healthcare companies with a covered call strategy that is actively managed to provide increased yield potential while helping mitigate risk. The LIFE ETF is available in hedged, unhedged and USD classes. LIFE.B (unhedged) was Canada’s top-performing healthcare ETF in 2018*. It was also the top-performing healthcare ETF over the 2-year period in 2019.**
Managed by an established team of industry veterans with a proven track record of success, Evolve ETFs creates investment products that make a difference. For more information, please visit www.evolveetfs.com or download our one-pager about LIFE ETF.
*Based on the Bloomberg Finance LP classification of 11 healthcare ETFs in Canada, as at December 31, 2018.
**Based on the Bloomberg Finance LP classification of 15 healthcare ETFs in Canada, as at December 31, 2019.