Keeping a finger firmly on the pulse of data

By Simon Rost, Marketing Director, Healthcare Digital EMEA, GE Healthcare

It’s that time, when the new year, and indeed a new decade, starts to fill our news feeds with predictions of the top technology trends and emerging healthcare innovations. No doubt, we will all have a view on what’s important to our organisation to achieve strategic and clinical aims now and into the future. But what do all these aspirational and innovative med-tech stories all have in common?

Take Extended Reality (XR), the umbrella term for Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality. Once the preserve of the gaming industry, AR, VR and MR now offer massive potential in healthcare to improve the training of physicians and to widen the range of patient treatments. At their core is the mass of meaningful historic health data that has been accessed and validated to create a new and exciting tech tool. It’s the same with Artificial Intelligence. Built from terabytes of real patient data, the AI algorithms are taught to make a decision without human interface. But this move towards hyper-automation could not exist without data as its teacher.

The list of autonomous things in the top tech forecasts will also include robotics, already gaining pace in the controlled environments of manufacturing, logistics and operating theatres. It too is built from embracing data to invent a machine workforce to meet skill shortages, bring about process efficiencies or assist with more precise treatments.

Data unites all the healthcare innovations of today

So if we’re seeing an evolution towards autonomous technologies that will support and even make decisions for us, then we also need to factor in the appropriate measures to protect these innovative data driven technologies. Cue cybersecurity.

It wasn’t that long ago that the threat to patient information and control of imaging modalities was in the headlines as the WannaCry ransomware hack crippled computers worldwide. In the UK alone it cost the NHS £92 million1 in 19,000 cancelled patient appointments and the subsequent IT clean up. With a growing reliance on IT to steer health systems, plus collect and store data, data security is a top tech trend that cannot be overlooked. Indeed, predictions include that data breeches and attacks on the healthcare sector will increase as we enter the new decade.

Exchange of healthcare data is also on the rise. The need to pull meaningful information, images and reports from repositories to build tomorrow’s tech means that we should be thinking how to protect these data transfers. The mainstream introduction of 5G will facilitate more possibilities of data exchange in 2020. Stable and increased bandwidth will enable more collection and transfer of data to facilitate advances in telehealth and the healthcare Internet of Things (IoT) such as patient monitoring in the form of wearable, implantable or ingestible medical devices.

Entering the new decade with 20/20 data vision

Data underpins most of the innovative march of modern technical and engineering innovation in healthcare today. It enables the building of the most interactive treatments and decision-making tools. Yet by its very existence, it also presents challenging questions: Where is the data generated? How is it protected? How can it be safely accessed? How can it deliver value? As we enter a new decade, we need our eyes wide open to the opportunities and threats of all the top technology trends and with a finger firmly on the pulse of data.


1 UK Department of Health