Quantum Computing is all over the news this last week, as Google researchers are claiming quantum supremacy for the first time. While we are still a while away from commercially available quantum computers, it does open up the discussion about “the possible.” How will industries, like healthcare, be disrupted by this future technology?
Healthcare Applications Accelerate with Advanced Quantum Compute Power
Quantum’s ability to compute at scale will allow clinicians to leverage a vast number of cross-functional data sets into their patient risk factor models. For instance, environmental databases can be analyzed to evaluate the effect of pollution on a patient’s health history.
Another way quantum’s compute power creates an advantage is in its ability to process imagery at scale. Analyzing images, such as CT scans, require much more processing power than traditional data sets. With increased compute available, clinicians could easily review CT scans over time and quickly identify changes and anomalies.
Similarly, precision medicine can be accelerated. Targeted chemotherapy protocols can be identified quicker, and with more customization, with quantum’s enhanced data processing abilities.
But There Will Be Challenges Too
Healthcare tends to lag other industries in technology adoption. The industry is just beginning to really harness Artificial Intelligence, trailing advancements already made in this space by the private sector.
Privacy and ethics are other concerns. Quantum computing has the potential to give individuals much clearer insights into their future healthcare risks. Patients tend to be receptive to this information when they understand those risks might be mitigated via preventative medicine. However, when the future prognosis indicates health conditions with grim outlooks, ethical situations arise. Will the predicted future prognosis impact the patient’s current mental health? What if health insurers or employers use the information to make negative coverage or employment decisions? These are questions that are circulating for current healthcare technologies, of course. Quantum just amplifies the need for a thoughtful approach to predictive medicine.
Much has been discussed about quantum computing’s ability to both destroy current and enhance future encryption practices. This is, of course, very relevant to health record privacy. An additional security angle that quantum can provide, is the ability to identify and stop data breach risks in advance, giving patients and providers greater peace of mind.
Quantum Computing may provide life-saving medical applications we have never seen the likes of before. Implementing these applications, however, will take a measured and mindful approach. Thankfully, we have a few years before this technology becomes mainstream, allowing the healthcare industry to fully grasp quantum’s true capabilities and challenges in the meantime.