“Businesses need to be ready for a quantum future because it’s coming.”
— Jeremy O’Brien
This section on quantum computing describes a movement. Quantum computers work on the basis of quantum mechanics. Traditional computers make use of bits with values of either 0 or 1 in order to store and process digital information. Quantum computers use qubits, whose value may also be 0 or 1, or it may be both 0 and 1 simultaneously. The jargon term for the latter case is superposition of states. Quantum computers additionally make use of quantum entanglement – which means that information
on qubit a influences information on paired qubit b. By virtue of these two principles, quantum computers are able to perform calculations exponentially faster than traditional computers.
This opens new opportunities for certain aspects of health care for which the lower computing power or speed of traditional computers is now a constraining factor [1-3].
Applications & benefits
Quantum computers offer greater calculating power to struggle through large databases. Quantum computing also enables researchers to progress more rapidly through the initial stages of drug development [4, 5]. In the near future, quantum sensors employed in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will facilitate more accurate imagery by enabling radiologists to focus on particular molecules rather than on a whole human body or part of the body . Powerful quantum computers make it possible to plan the targeting of cancer cells more precisely in radiation therapy, thereby limiting the damage to adjacent tissues . Entire genomes can also be mapped more swiftly .
The technique also provides support to other technological movements. One crossover application of nanotechnology and quantum computing is the bio-barcode assay, in which gold nanoparticles with unique quantum properties are used in the imaging of active immune cells [6, 8]. Such a procedure can facilitate screening for specific medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or prostate cancer. Another key role is laid out for quantum computers in smart analytics; particularly in machine learning, the potential to simultaneously conduct many parallel computing processes simultaneously is crucial .
The market for quantum computers is expanding strongly. The projected market value for 2023 is $495 million, based on an annual growth rate of 24 per cent from 2017 onwards [10, 11]. After initial scepticism about the viability of quantum computers, the first prototypes are already available and the first commercial devices are entering the market. A quantum computer simulator is even accessible online .
The growth in the quantum computing market is being driven by a variety of developments, including:
- The versatility of quantum computers is expanding as a result of technological advances in both software and hardware [13-16].
- Following upon earlier efforts in governmental and research institutes, commercial enterprises have been investing in the market in recent years, spurring the development of practical applications for quantum computing. [5,17,18].
- The digitisation of society and the health care system has generated unprecedented quantities of data. Developments in blockchain technology and advanced cyber security solutions also require extra computing power .
New technological capabilities
Growing investments in healthcare technology
Growing availability of (medical) data
In spite of the recent successes, prototypes, and opportunities that are theoretically almost limitless, quantum computers still face a number of challenges in their practical application. For most of their potential tasks, quantum computers are still not any faster or more efficient than conventional computers. Algorithms are complex, and quantum programming is still in its infancy. Technical staff require highly specific skills . Moreover, quantum computers have high technical demands, in order to guarantee optimal usability . A further impediment lies in concerns about what the virtually unlimited computing power could mean for privacy within current data systems, and within health care systems in particular. Traditional passwords and protections can be instantly cracked by quantum computers. That will necessitate new, quantum-proof security measures that work on principles not based on computational power [21, 22]. It also calls for an ethical debate on the intellectual ownership of genuine breakthroughs .
Lack of expertise
Immaturity of the application
Increasing emphasis on privacy sensitivity
Developments in quantum computing are potentially revolutionary, not just for health care but in society as a whole. Several hurdles must still be overcome, however, before quantum computers will be accessible for daily use in health care. For the time being, quantum computing is still largely the domain of researchers, although the first prototypes are already entering the market. Ultimately, quantum computing will support the movement towards swifter and more powerful autonomous systems for health care and human well-being.
Quantum Computing for dummies
Every normal computer stores information as series of bits. A bit can have a value of 0 or 1. A quantum computer does not use bits, but qubits, which means that a qubit may have a value of not simply 0 or 1, but of both 0 and 1 simultaneously. That gives a qubit twice as much ‘value’ as an ordinary bit. For each additional qubit, the calculating power of a quantum computer is squared. For every four bits, for example, a quantum computer performs 42 = 16 calculations simultaneously, whilst a ‘normal’ computer performs those sixteen calculations one by one. As a result, the quantum computer calculates far more swiftly. How many of those extra calculations are actually useful depends on the purpose of the operation; quantum computers are especially superior for applications in which many different possibilities have to be generated or assessed.
The qubit can have both 0 and 1 as a value, due to a quantum mechanics principle – superposition of states. To accomplish this in a quantum computer, the device must meet certain technical demands. A quantum computer must therefore operate in a vacuum at a temperature near absolute zero, thus minimising the chance that the superposition of states will collapse. As a consequence of technical difficulties such as the high instability of the processors, a quantum computer is more efficient than an ordinary computer only if it has large numbers of qubits.
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