Since prehistory, humans have been seeking ways to alleviate symptoms from ailments and injury as well as searching for ways to heal and recover or completely prevent disease. There’s an ancient Egyptian manuscript offering instructions for the removal of kidney stones. Step one is to get two strong men.
Medicine has come a long way since then and continues to grow and develop as we learn more. Like most scientific fields, medicine is part of a much greater process involving how humans can come to understand the world, and while it’s easy to look back on something like bloodletting and scoff, it’s important to remember that one day people will be looking back on our medical practices the same way.
There’s endless room for growth, and with the help of technology, human medicine is able to face this growth head-on and improve much faster and much more efficiently. The following will take a look at some of the technology that is available and being used today to help discover, develop, and provide medicines.
The big technical elephant in the room is Artificial intelligence, sometimes also called AI. This tech is working its way into every industry worldwide, and medicine is no exception. Drug discovery and testing is a long and arduous process that artificial technology can help simplify.
In a simple sense, artificial intelligence is a phrase used to describe the use of computers and other technologies to simulate the behavior associated with intelligence, like critical thinking. Of course, the actual act of creating and understanding AI is far more complicated than that sentence. Long term, the goal with artificial intelligence is to create an intelligent simulation that equals and eventually exceeds human mental capabilities. Currently, the goal is to keep artificial intelligence learning new things so that it can point out new things to people.
AI has found its way into several areas of healthcare. This includes drug development, disease diagnostics, medical treatment, personalized treatment, managing medical data, analysis of health plans, surgical treatment, digital consultation, and health monitoring. By being involved in all these areas of healthcare, AI can also connect the dots between several different tasks via analyzing collected data resulting in the identification of patterns and areas where improvement is needed that require an understanding of data encompassing multiple people’s individual jobs. Given how demanding work in the medical field is, there aren’t too many opportunities for a whole bunch of doctors and researchers, and technicians to get together and talk medical philosophy and possibilities and compare data collected in search of larger patterns. AI systems can be fed by different departments and positions and do that scoping review of what is known.
AI And Drug Discovery
When it comes to discovering new drugs, AI is predicted to be able to save companies costs somewhere around 70% of what they’re expected to spend. One of the major ways AI can do this is by performing scoping analyses of the literature already existing. Gaps where further information is needed or worth exploring can be highlighted, as can spaces where interesting results were found and not pursued. This can limit the feeling of wandering in a dark room when researchers are looking to discover a new medical treatment. AI can help focus the search meaning a lot less time is spent taking stabs in the dark.
AI And Preclinical Development
AI can also help during the preclinical development of new drugs. This is the stage during which drugs are tested using markers decided by researchers and animal models. AI can help keep these trials running smoothly and are much faster at predicting a drug’s behavior within an animal model with less information than a human. Again, this speeds up the process considerably.
AI And Clinical Trials
AI is also proving useful in the clinical trial stage of drug development. Artificial intelligence has been used to facilitate the monitoring of participants during trials resulting in larger sets of valuable data collected more quickly. They have also been applied to personalizing the experience of a trial which can help keep participants participating until the very end of the study. Most studies have a percentage of participants back out part of the way through for a myriad of reasons, including life changes, pregnancy, loss of interest, discomfort, and a loss of trust in the medical team. Personalization helps ensure that participants’ needs are being met without the structure of the trial being offset.
Optimizing Existing Systems
Technology can also leave the work to human scientists but assist with the optimization of the work. This might mean using an edge data platform to assist in decision making and in the finding and correcting of operational inefficiencies. Given the recent exploration of remote work, this is even more important as not everyone involved in the task at hand is in the same room or using the same system. This sort of tech saves researchers valuable time and energy so that they can get back to the work that interests them most.
Is This Safe? Data Integrity And Technology Inspection
Given how crucial technology has become in the process of medical discoveries and how much data is being collected at lightning speed, technology is also needed to keep everything in check. Data breaches are no joke, especially not when it comes to the medical field (which hackers tend to zero in on as medical records and data are worth an insane amount of money). Research participant safety and privacy are of the utmost importance meaning data integrity and technology inspections are crucial in the medical discovery process.
Computer systems need to be validated and periodic reviews conducted to ensure that everything is as safe and secure as possible. And life science consulting companies tend to have humans work in tandem with technologies in order to find any potential risks and eliminate them. They also look for areas where improvement can be made, and technology used more efficiently.
Again, it’s important to note that humans are still at the very beginning of what we one day will be able to understand and do when it comes to medicine. There is evidence of herbal medicine from as early as 3300 BC (Ayurveda’s origins go all the way back to 4000 BC!). Jump to 2019, and people are capable of 3D-printing human hearts using a human patient’s cells. There is still so far to go, and technology can help with that if we take the time to keep things safe and secure.
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