Science fiction has always been the white board for technological innovation.  Think of all the books and/or movies you have digested.  How many times have you said, “well, that will never happen?” And looking back, how many futuristic concepts have eventually become reality?  More than you may realize.

Let me give you a few fun examples.  Back to the Future’s hoverboard.  Star Trek’s communicator, now the cell phone.  Total Recall’s driverless cars.  Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope’s 3d Hologram.  How about the Defibrillator?  Dr. Victor Frankenstein famously reanimates dead flesh in Mary Shelley novel published in 1818.  By the 1950’s, the machines were reviving patients in hospitals everywhere.  So, what’s next in line?

The current focus in health care is on the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Therefore, it is also the current focus of technology.  By default, the pandemic is speeding up medical technology innovation, applications, and implementation.  The world had to react swiftly and we are already seeing major changes that will likely become part of permanent solutions.

One obvious example is telemedicine.  Prior to COVID-19, I think most physicians thought that in person, face-to-face encounters provided the best level of connection to their patients.  It was more up-close and personal.  Telemedicine was for Sci-fi flicks.

Then came COVID-19, and healthcare providers have been forced into a real life, trial-by-fire sci-fi movie consisting of social distancing and futuristic medical tech.  Guess what, it works and is saving countless lives.  It meets social distancing protocol and you can connect with your patient while both wearing pajamas.  That seems rather personal. Even health care plans like Medicare had strict payment limits on telemedicine but COVID-19 changed their view and now Medicare has embraced telemedicine and opened the practice up to reimbursement.

Not only does it work, but it will likely become our new reality.  What’s more daunting than having to make a doctor’s appointment and take a day off work just to trek through traffic to be seen.  Hopefully, gone are the days of sitting in the waiting room of your doctor’s office for hours, exposed to other potential illnesses, just to be told take two Advil and ‘call me in the morning!’  Why, when you can accomplish the same thing with a scheduled tele-visit from the comfort of your home, office, or car?  It is quick, efficient, sanitary, flexible and will only continue to improve.  It just makes too much darn sense.  But, of course, health care providers will want to have a laying on of hands when the condition is more serious or the need for more complex diagnostic techniques may be required.  Don’t expect office visits to completely disappear, but be prepared to have them significantly cut back for routine cough-cold, flu, and follow-up visits for non-emergency conditions.

By default, most of us humans are resistant to change.  COVID-19 has propelled innovators to push their creative pursuits.  At the same time, it has also pushed us to become quite adaptable and realize, yes, sometimes change is for the better.  It is very important to remember that necessity is the mother of invention, especially when everyone will benefit from it.  Embrace the Sci-Fi reality!

Here are just a few more examples of “sci-fi to reality” medical devices that exist today!

  • KC Wearable has developed RoboCop-style AI helmets which can scan the body temperature within a 16 ft. radius.
  • The pandemic drone. In Australia, Javaan Chahl is working with Canada-based drone tech firm Draganfly to develop a drone-based system to identify or predict COVID-19 hotspots.
  • Robot cleaners (ultraviolet-light-disinfection robots). Experts say as more businesses re-open, we can expect to see further adoption of this technology – you may see robots cleaning your schools or offices one day. After all,  Marty, the Stop & Shop robot is already on hazard duty!

Like it or not, the healthcare industry from top to bottom is being forced to transform right before our eyes.  It’s truly amazing what can be accomplished when necessity drives change.  This pandemic has forced our hand in so many ways.  It required us take a good look at ourselves, how we do things, why we do things, and imagine how to do them better. Curious to see what other Sci-Fi becomes reality.  Beam me up, Scotty!