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As one of the most essential and complex industries in modern society, healthcare is always changing. We are constantly pouring money into healthcare research so we can better understand human health and develop better methods of preventing and curing illnesses and injuries. As technology improves, the rate of advancement has only gotten more rapid.
With that in mind, what’s on the horizon in healthcare for 2022? Here are 6 emerging trends to keep your eye on in the upcoming year.
Unsurprisingly, genetic mutations are on everyone’s mind right now as the Omicron variant threatens global progress in the battle against COVID-19. As a disease spreads, “errors” in its genetic code cause changes in the way the disease behaves, leading to variants. In 2022, we are likely to see advances in the understanding of genetic mutations in hopes that it will be possible to react more quickly and effectively to these changes in infectious diseases.
Genetic mutation research will also allow for a better understanding of change on the cellular level within the human body. In the past, this type of research has been very difficult, time-consuming, and expensive, if not impossible. Mutations happen within strands of DNA almost imperceptibly, often with just a single letter changing within the DNA. With advances in DNA sequencing, however, researchers can analyze strands of DNA with an error rate of just 5 per billion letters, making this type of research much more effective.
We know that mutations are normal within the human body and are expected to occur as we age. However, some of these mutations do lead to the development of cancer cells, and we do not yet fully understand why. With precise DNA analysis, we can expect to see learn more about genetic mutations in the coming year.
This kind of research is already leading to new solutions for patients that feel almost impossible. The CRISPR gene-editing tool allows scientists to actually “edit” DNA, potentially curing diseases that are difficult to control and stem from mutations. While we likely won’t see gene editing become mainstream yet in 2022, big breakthroughs in gene editing promise hope for patients and their families.
Every day, countless surgeries from major heart and brain procedures to minor elective surgeries occur all over the world. Typically, the surgeon’s skill plays an enormous role in the success of any given procedure.
While there are many incredibly skilled surgeons in the world, they can only work so quickly and so precisely. Additionally, factors like lack of sleep or focus can lead to potentially fatal errors. Robot-assisted surgery is growing in popularity and sophistication for its ability to improve accuracy and precision, reduce infection and errors, and lead to better outcomes overall.
So far, over 6 million surgeries have been assisted by da Vinci surgical systems. The system does not replace the surgical expertise of the surgeon but empowers them to perform delicate surgeries more safely as they directly control the robotic equipment and surgical tools.
AI and robot-assisted surgeries are still relatively rare, but advances in technology will make them more and more attractive to both patients and surgeons in the near future. In 2020, the FDA approved a new robotic surgical system that can adapt to the surgeon to make it more intuitive. We can expect to see more surgeries taking place with robotic help in 2022
Some of the worst diseases are those that attack the mind. Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease with no current cure. Over time, people lose their memories and other mental faculties due to the degenerative effect of the disease.
Researchers have been chasing a cure for Alzheimer’s disease for a long time. But in 2022, there will be a few promising treatments in development. Several different drug companies continue to develop new drugs they hope will provide a cure.
Despite significant controversy over a drug approved in 2021 by the FDA, researchers are still committed to their goal of developing an effective Alzheimer’s medication. Although efforts to develop a new Alzheimer’s drug may not yield impressive results in 2022, it is encouraging that researchers continue to search for a cure and make progress.
Another treatment that is showing promise is designed to address malfunctioning proteins at the root of Alzheimer’s disease. A molecule is used to both identify signs of disease in the brain and to treat the disease by binding to faulty “chaperone” molecules. This treatment has passed phase 1 of clinical trials and is expected to finish phase 2 by the end of 2022.
Since the illegal synthetic opioid fentanyl first appeared, overdose deaths in the United States have been rising rapidly. The opioid epidemic has reached crisis levels and in 2022, we’re likely to see more discussion of concrete strategies that can be used to save lives and reduce illegal drug use.
A five-point strategy from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers suggestions on how to tackle opioid drug abuse within communities and help people get back on their feet. The plan involves both practical and research-based initiatives, including:
Opioid addiction destroys lives. In the next year, we will hopefully see the medical and social work communities tackling this problem effectively and reducing the unacceptably high number of overdose deaths that have been occurring over the last few years.
We live in an extremely diverse nation that is only becoming less homogenous all the time. Everyone deserves to get excellent healthcare and respect, regardless of their race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and more. Unfortunately, discrimination and stereotyping in nursing are still fairly common and can affect patients’ health and well-being.
Trust is key in a healthcare setting. Patients need to be able to trust their doctors and nurses if they are going to provide key health information and open up about how they feel. They are also unlikely to follow medical advice if they don’t trust their healthcare providers. Unfortunately, this distrust is not entirely unfounded—some groups have experienced significant abuse from the medical community in the past and present.
In 2022, we will continue to see a trend toward increasing cultural competence in healthcare. Cultural competency within the field requires taking the time to understand and factor in the patient’s background when caring for patients. Nurses and doctors will need to confront their implicit biases and learn how to deliver quality care to patients of various backgrounds.
Overall, this will accelerate the trend of personalized healthcare and improve the patient experience. Culturally sensitive care is patient-focused and requires healthcare professionals to change their approach based on the patient’s needs. This will allow for more proactive healthcare and help patients feel respected throughout the process of healthcare delivery, improving outcomes.
The healthcare trends poised to evolve in 2022 combine the power of technology with the power of human intuition. Robots help surgeons become more effective, but human expertise and skill are still needed to safely and effectively perform procedures. Our deeper understanding of human health needs and mental health combine with new drug and treatment options to help people improve their lives. Healthcare workers use their intuition to deliver culturally competent care, aided by advanced medical technology.
We face many challenges in our world. COVID-19 remains a threat that the healthcare community tackles on a daily basis. Natural disasters displace and harm people all over the world. Problems such as wealth inequality persist and leave people in poverty all over the world. Yet, we are seeing incredible progress in the field of medicine, fueled by innovation and hard work.
As we move into 2022, there are still so many mysteries to solve surrounding human health and medicine. We’ve come so far in the last hundred years, but there’s still a long way to go. With the problem-solving power and dedication of medical researchers and medical professionals, however, we will undoubtedly continue to see steady progress and improve our ability to help people maintain good health and well-being.