New Apple Watch heralds ‘smart healthcare’ revolution for aging societies 人口老化嚴重 國內外大廠佈局智慧醫療

Tue, Oct 09, 2018 - Page 14

The new model iPhone was released mid-last month to a somewhat muted reaction from the market. However, at the same event Apple Inc also released an updated Apple Watch, called the Apple Watch Series 4, which showed that the company is working furiously behind the scenes to break into a new field, as it quietly builds an eco-system around “smart healthcare.” Due to the importance of safeguarding human life, the entry threshold into the healthcare market is high, but the potential rewards are significant. As humans live longer, we are becoming ever more reliant on technology and artificial intelligence as a means to look after our health.

The definition of “smart healthcare” is extremely broad. Starting with the da Vinci surgical robot, already on the market for over a decade, the area now includes specialist fields such as the automatic transfer of patient blood pressure monitoring data to hospitals and AI-assisted artificial gene synthesis (gene printing), which is able to rapidly compile DNA sequences and produce biopharmaceuticals. While attending a discussion forum by the Industrial Technology Research Institute in Taiwan last month, major pharmaceutical company Merck & Co predicted that revenue from AI-related health care alone — which currently stands at about US$600 million — will grow to around US$20 billion by 2026. Furthermore, AI constitutes just one small piece of the overall smart healthcare market.

Humanity is on the cusp of an imminent medical care crisis. According to US research, there is a positive correlation between the patient-to-nurse ratio and patient mortality rate: For every additional patient that a nurse has to care for, the 30-day mortality rate for hospitalized patients increases by 7 percent.

As a result of various background factors, “smart healthcare” will be an unstoppable force in the future. As such, global manufacturers, whether involved in communications, machinery, pharmaceuticals or consumer technology, are all getting involved, and Apple naturally wants to claim a piece of the pie for itself. At last month’s launch of the updated Apple Watch, Apple revealed that the device now supports a heart rate monitor and wrist sensor and represents a significant step forward for the wearable device. Previously, the watch was only able to record a wearer’s heart rate, but the technology has been upgraded so that Apple Watch can now monitor a user’s heart condition in a way that provides real medical value.

In addition to the above new hardware functionality, Apple is also building a health eco-system. Last year, Apple embarked on a partnership with Stanford University Medical Center to found the Apple Heart Study program, which uses Apple Watch to collect large amounts of data on heart rate activity from volunteers. This year Apple has signed agreements with more than 90 hospitals across the US so that patients can use their mobile phones to access their own medical records, making it possible for users to bring their medical history with them wherever they go. If the results are successful, it may well create a snowball effect and spread to other medical institutions.

(Liberty Times, translated by Edward Jones)

新款iPhone在上個月中發表,市場反應是無甚驚奇。不過從同場發表的Apple Watch,可看出蘋果已在另一個領域鴨子划水,悄悄建起了生態系「智慧醫療」。因為人命關天,這是一個門檻極高的市場,但商機也很大,尤其在人類壽命愈來愈長的未來,勢必仰賴更多科技和人工智慧來照顧我們的健康。

智慧醫療的定義廣泛,從問世十幾年的達文西手術機器人、將數據自動回傳醫院的血壓機、到基因合成學借助AI及機器學習,能快速編寫DNA序列,製造生物藥劑來治療疾病等等。國際大藥廠默克上個月來台出席工研院產業創新論壇時就估計,目前光是與AI相關的醫療保健產值,全球約六億美元,二零二六年將達兩百億美元;而AI不過是智慧醫療的一小塊領域。

人類面臨的醫療窘境,已迫在眉睫。美國研究指出,每位護理師照顧的病人數,和病人死亡率呈現正相關:護理師每多照顧一名病人,病人住院三十天的死亡風險增加百分之七。

在種種背景下,智慧醫療是必然之勢;因此全球廠商不論其專長是通訊、機械、製藥或3C,都在積極投入,蘋果當然也不缺席。上個月發表的Apple Watch,能支援心律檢測及手腕感應,這讓穿戴裝置邁進了一大步,從以往只能記錄心跳幾下,升級到可監測具有醫療價值的心律狀況。

蘋果不只推出上述的硬體新功能,也在建構生態系。去年它和史丹佛醫學中心合作啟動「Apple Heart Study」計畫,透過Apple Watch收集自願者的心律大數據。今年又與全美逾九十家醫院簽約,病人可透過手機看到自己的醫療紀錄,落實病歷帶著走。若成效良好,未來很可能產生滾雪球效應,擴及更多醫療機構。

(自由時報記者羅倩宜)

Follow up讀後練習

Smart healthcare’ in Taiwan

Anumber of burgeoning “smart healthcare” projects are currently underway in Taiwan, including a partnership between Accton Technology Corp and Taipei Veterans General Hospital, as well as a collaboration between HTC Corp and Wanfang Hospital. Additionally, Leadtek Research Inc has created an integrated AI, big data and long-distance care smart medical treatment system.

Taiwan is fast becoming an aging society, putting a strain on the doctor-patient relationship and exacerbating the shortfall in doctors and nurses, which continues to worsen year-on-year. The need for “smart healthcare” has never been more urgent. However, relying on business alone to provide the necessary research and development and innovation may not be enough to solve the problem. The “smart healthcare” industry also has to surmount regulatory and human behavioral challenges in addition to other problems which will require a fresh government policy, rules and regulations, as well as a favorable environment for innovation.

(Liberty Times, translated by Edward Jones)