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A colorful combination of companies—aerospace, retail, gaming, security, and telecommunications—have in recent years discovered the power of pairing artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) to help alleviate the complexities within their industries.
A few years ago, both these innovations seemed almost foreign, even to the most advanced industries. Today, it’s almost a critical mission for any business to maximize the capabilities of both AI and VR if they are looking to survive in the hyper-active and competitive marketplace.
The build-up of the Internet-of-Things (IoT), mobile communication, and 5G tools have also now largely contributed to the rapid expansion of these technologies across multiple fields.
While for a greater part many experts claimed that these developments would mainly form part of advanced businesses, especially in fields such as military, security, engineering, architecture and aviation, the need for state-of-the-art tools have quickly manifested itself within the healthcare and alternative medicine market in recent years.
For quite some time, many in the field of contemporary and alternative medicine viewed the use of AI as a way to help alleviate stresses upon healthcare systems.
This was put to the test during the first half of the pandemic, as national healthcare systems experienced a skyrocketing influx of patients in need. The later part would see deep machine learning replace mundane tasks and jobs usually completed by healthcare staff and other industry professionals.
Though it has been a long time coming, even well before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, we now see how frequently AI algorithms are used for AI-assisted CT or MRI scans and computer-driven healthcare translation in the field of cancer research.
There is a pressing need to properly and efficiently diagnose ADHD and ASD patients, AI can be used to help diagnose such patients. Currently, a study which tracks eye movement to detect ASD, which would reduce the long lead time waiting for clinical visit not to mention an expensive and lengthy consultation.
In the sphere of virtual reality, it’s now possible for clinical and medical personnel to combine different technologies to enhance their multisensory working environment. The adoption of virtual or augmented reality tools has also been found to help alleviate stress, anxiety, and burnout experienced by healthcare workers according to the latest research by Ohio University.
This is especially true during the COVID lockdown, when people are stuck at home and could not go outdoors. VR brings the possibility of online medical consultations, also known as tele-medicine and gives doctors the ability to continue seeing and treating patients from the comfort of their own homes.
While the ongoing development and opportunities seem endless, for clinical and contemporary medical practices, what can these technologies do for the alternative medicine market, and is there room for safe application thereof in the coming years?
To get a better understanding from an industry perspective, we spoke to Yat-Gai Au, founder and CEO of Regencell Bioscience (RGC), a company that focuses on the research, development, and commercialization of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for the treatment of neurocognitive disorders including ADHD, ASD, and infectious diseases.
Alternative HealthTech In Alternative Medicine
Research on the adoption of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) within the American healthcare system conducted far and wide by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that in 2004 nearly 40% of American adults at the time made use of some form of alternative or CAM medication.
Growth in population and advancements within the alternative medical field, coupled with AI and VR could place this figure significantly higher today. The historic data also reveals the widespread acceptance and utilization of alternative medicine at the time.
Fast-forward, we see how modern technology and innovative tools have helped to fast-track better understanding and conceptualization of CAM within the greater part of society.
“If we look at how much the industry has progressed within such a short time, one can only start to think what the next 20 years will look like. Medicine, whichever we refer to, requires a great level of innovation, development, and overall deployment,” Yat-Gai shared.
In a recent clinical study by Regencell – the EARTH Trial – researchers found that the effectiveness of RGC’s RGC-COV19TM helped with the alleviation and elimination of COVID-19 symptoms within 6 days. The success of the EARTH Trial showcases how far TCM has come throughout the years.
“As a company that’s constantly growing, learning, and adapting to the changing environment around us, we need to seek out opportunities within our own practices that look to help those in need. We established RGC because we believed in the effectiveness and success of TCM , and we want to share this with people around the world instead of keeping it to a limited number of people.”
In terms of how healthtech can improve these practices mainly lends itself to how companies can adopt new models of initiating research and developing the tools that will enable them to better understand the increasing need for innovative medical treatment.
Already we see how affordable VR equipment can be used by medical students in training to help place them within a real-life medical situation. This is then used as a way to deliver further feedback and debrief students.
AI is helping to build models in TCM which are then used later within an augmented reality setting. The same tools can compile large quantities of data and information to help lab researchers better understand the effectiveness of their discoveries in clinical studies.
Retail drugs accounted for more than 86% of all medications currently used in the United States as of 2021, while the use of medicines – based on defined daily doses – has grown 9.6% a year throughout the last five years.
Even as the pandemic starts to wane, the effectiveness and safety of all drugs and medicines issued to the general public will remain a critical factor for pharmaceutical manufacturers and healthcare providers.
“The need for these technologies is not only crucial within the practice of medicine, but also in the work many healthcare professionals and researchers are doing behind the scenes as well. With the aid of modern technology, our teams can develop and lead scientific trials to improve services and produce products that are effective, safe, and useful,” Yat-Gai says.
Using AI To Get Ahead
For businesses using Artificial Intelligence (AI), even in the smallest capacity, there’s a defined algorithm that helps to simplify complex systems and methods.
While many suggest that AI is still somewhat in its infancy, newer models will be able to gather and collect information to help create more predictive models.
Predictive models are perhaps the most vital aspect of AI and deep machine learning capabilities. Not only does it help frontline workers better cope and structure their operations, but it helps to establish forward-looking protocols that can help prevent serious illness and injury.
AI, alongside deep machine learning, would be able to compile and publish straightforward data that provides further insight into the negative or positive effects of drugs during clinical trials.
It can track and monitor the spread of disease and viruses, such as contact tracing apps used during the early months of the pandemic. Predict the probability of contagious viruses or historic diseases reappearing in the modern day.
Technologies integrated with IoT are already helping patients recover faster and more efficiently through the use of home treatment applications, and online medical portals (telehealth), and mitigate the need for in-person consultation which is helping communities in remote parts to access the healthcare services they desperately require.
“Technology, and in this case AI carries more weight than many people can imagine. In the form of alternative medicine, where our focus is to develop treatments of neurocognitive disorders and degenerations through TCM, it’s now possible for us to build upon what we already have, and what we will need to improve in the near future.”
In this regard, it’s possible that AI, alongside other forms of technology, will be able to make improvements in the field of alternative medicine. Moreover, this is not only limited to the clinical aspects, but also distribution and the commercialization thereof. Instead of only a small group of people or community having access to these groundbreaking treatments, it’s now possible for remote individuals to learn, access, and distribute these medicines more frequently.
Already we are more aware of the multifaceted possibilities that lie within healthtech and what it has to offer on a professional or executive level, though further advancements outside of this sphere have already escalated in recent months.
Consumer and corporate fixation surrounding the Metaverse has already seen major league companies plow billions of dollars of investments into the expansion of the Metaverse.
Though investments are coming in all shapes and sizes, and from different industries, the Metaverse is more than a virtual or augmented reality social space, it’s also a place where medical device companies can use mixed reality (MR) tools to recreate possible medical situations.
Social media giant, Facebook – now Meta Platforms – acquired Oculus and its VR headset technology have already created several healthcare applications, and collaborations with Facebook Reality Labs, Nexus Studios, and the World Health Organization Academy (WHO) to create training material and courses that can be integrated within the Metaverse.
The merger and combination of experience allow more training time for healthcare workers, treating post-traumatic stress (PTS), and training first responders.
“We are a company that looks to make a difference where it’s possible, and while our R&D may be limited to a few fields of interest, over time we’ll be able to broaden our perspectives to more complex treatments,” Yat-Gai briefly mentions.
Yat-Gai initiated a grant and financial support program in April 2022 to help support more than 10,000 children that have been financially impacted by COVID-19, and those affected by the lasting effects of ADHD and ASD. “Till recently, my endeavors with the Regencell Foundation have seen me help over 200 children, a project which I have taken up within my personal capacity.”
As complex as the integration between all these tools may seem, there’s a possibility that lies within each of its applications.
As the growing need for more advanced medicine becomes apparent, the healthcare sector will look towards technological innovations such as AI and virtual reality to help support the increased demand.
Today we already see how healthtech startups and companies are building the tools for the industry of tomorrow. Whether it’s contemporary medicine or alternative medicine, the possibilities are well-established, and make a remarkable difference in the way we understand, use and distribute professional healthcare services and products to those most in need.