How can emerging technology help to democratise health care?
There's no question that the increasing accessibility of new technologies is changing how we live. But the latest innovations in health care are signalling a revolutionary shift towards a more democratised health care system where absolute control of patient care moves from the traditional medical institutions into the hands of the wider medical community and even patients themselves.
Apotek Hjärtat, Sweden's largest private pharmacy has recently launched a virtual reality 'happy place' through the Oculus Rift store. The app, which isn't a substitute for pain relief medication, aims instead to alleviate acute aches and pains through meditation and distraction. The app simulates a peaceful campground that enables the user to experience a soothing environment, in which 'patients' can calmly explore while easing their symptoms.
Moving beyond pain relief, the MakerHealth movement aims to democratise health care by empowering doctors, nurses and patients. The movement, which defines current health care practices as unaffordable and 'black boxed', has created a workshop design lab in which stealth innovators (anyone and everyone) can prototype new ideas which improve on or create entirely new medical devices. The labs are equipped with a wide array of technologies and tools, including laser cutters and 3D printers, to help refine ideas that are then uploaded and shared to help people in similar situations solve related medical quandaries all over the world.
We as humans are uniquely qualified to help ourselves when we are sick or in pain, because we know better than anyone else how we feel. Of course, we need doctors to diagnose us, but when it comes down to it, as experts of our own bodies the ability to take control of our own care is invaluable. By tapping into the easy availability of 3D printing, virtual reality, even AI, we can now be masters of our own treatment and even help to find do-it-yourself creative solutions for others.