Jetson-esque Healthcare

Maybe you remember the ‘60s cartoon, The Jetsons – about the futuristic family living in 2062, with all their hi-tech gadgets and automation? It couldn’t get any better than seeing cool innovations like flat-screen TVs, video calling, conveyor sidewalks, the internet, and even MRIs and EKGs. But it’s now a reality. And with the digital explosion happening around us, it feels like I’m stepping into the Skypad Apartments.

We’ve become a world that wants things now. We’re used to on-demand movies, on-demand gaming, on-demand computing and so on. In healthcare, we’re seeing trends in creating on-demand, digital 3D-printed medical & dental devices and implants. Coming soon, you’ll be able to order brand new organs, customized to your own needs.

The Mayo Clinic has been leading the 3D-printing rage with nylon-printed knee replacements that act like bones and cartilage. At C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, baby Kaiba’s life was saved with a 3D-printed airway splint and in March 2014 at the University Medical Center Ultrecht, a complete skull was replaced with a 3D-printed one. And the list keeps growing.

According to visiongain, they’re predicting a world market for 3D-printing in healthcare to boom after 2014, reaching over $4 billion by 2018. Last year alone, the medical market generated $1.2 billion.

Since Hershey’s, Nabisco and Barilla are now jumping in to make 3D-printed foods, it doesn’t surprise me to hear pharmaceuticals dipping their big toe in this market, too. Researchers at the University of Nottingham’s School of Pharmacy have created tablets that incorporate immediate and sustained-released layers, all on a printer costing less than $1,000. Well, sounds likejetsons a potential for “chemputer” drug printing, but I digress.

In other industries, smart sensors have long been used to track and replenish inventories. It’s efficient. It’s more productive. It brings cost-savings. And in the era of tight resources, it’s no great leap of faith that healthcare innovators and early adopters have finally taken the bull by its horns. It’s this Internet of Things (IoT) that interconnect applications, sensors, micro-controllers, actuators, mobile communication devices and more (a.k.a. the things), that gives personalized or other “big data” in real-time, for less cost.

The possibilities are endless for IoT in healthcare. From smart pills that record your health to smart diapers that analyses data in urine and sends it all to your phone, are advancements that are becoming a reality.

What if an MRI breaks down? Intelligent medical equipment will be able to tell if a motor is overheating and report the problem with real-time alerts. Oh, and wouldn’t it be great to simply 3D-print the replacement part on the spot rather than ordering and waiting for its delivery?

But how does all of this translate to disrupting our supply chains? The emerging digital value network is about converging people, businesses and things with technology, allowing a seamless exchange of data in real-time, connecting all trading partners. This directly affects our supply chains with regard to a change in the methods of product development and life-cycle management; and how we’ll meet the changing expectations of our customers, and deliver more differentiated services to them, more efficiently.

As we integrate the physical and digital supply chains for tracking & visibility, proactive replenishment and predictive maintenance, we begin moving in a growing sea of Big Data. And by tying 3D-printing and the IoT with predictive analytics, we deliver a whole new level of value to the enterprise with improved patient outcomes and low-cost operations.

So, in the age of pizza and book deliveries via drones, that kind of value delivered straight to your door is sooo Jetson-esque!

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