For anyone wanting to predict the sector most likely to be disrupted by technology over the next decade, healthcare would be a safe bet. New diagnostic tools allow doctors to spot problems sooner, and other technologies are making treatments more personalised and, potentially, cheaper.
One game-changing advance is 3D printing and pioneering dentists are using printers in reconstructive surgery. One specialist practice in London, Dawood & Tanner, recently treated a patient with damage to his face. They used scanners to map the area then printed a 3D model of his skull, which helped dentist Andrew Dawood prepare for the operation.
Nuada Group, founded in 2010, is another British firm using 3D printing – this time to help treat prostate cancer. The imaging practice in Marylebone, London creates detailed models of organs that help consultants explain to their plans to patients. Around the corner, in Harley Street, Cavendish Imaging applies the technology to orthopaedic surgery. It also makes the sorts of sports masks that are increasingly seen on the faces of Premier League footballers.
One way it uses 3D printing is by creating models of the pelvis that allow surgeons to prepare before theatre, by pre-bending the metal plates they are going to fit. Veronique Sauret-Jackson, Cavendish Imaging’s managing director, says: “That means the patient can recover more quickly.”
For footballers with nose and cheek injuries, the company uses a series of photographs to make a model of the face and then prints a fitted nylon mask to protect the damaged area. “When the season starts, you don’t want an expensive player sitting on the bench,” Sauret-Jackson says.
Apps offer another boon in the health sector. GoodSAM is designed to alert people with first-aid training when a medical emergency happens nearby, so they can respond before the ambulance arrives. The Peek (portable eye examination kit) app combines with a special lens that fits over a smartphone camera, allowing users in remote parts of the globe to identify eyecare problems. Not only is technology changing the world, it is revolutionising the way we look after one another.