Quantum Computing: The Future of Healthcare

How the transition from bits to qubits will revolutionize medical practices

The devices we use every day to complete homework or contact friends and family function by manipulating bits, which are the smallest units of information that can be processed by computers. They can represent one of two states, commonly denoted by the binary values 1 and 0. Bits have laid the foundation for computing since the very beginning, but as computers take an exciting turn into the quantum world, bits are slowly being replaced by quantum bits, or “qubits” for short (10). Proposed in the 1980s by Richard Feynman and Yuri Manin, quantum computing applies the laws of quantum mechanics to solve problems too large or complex for regular computers (1). Composing the basis of quantum computing, qubits introduce a completely new way of processing information through quantum principles like superposition.

Superposition is the ability of a quantum system to be in two states at the same time. For example, if a bit were in superposition, it would be defined by a complex combination of both 0 and 1 values (2). Quantum computers use particles in superposition, which represent all possible configurations of a qubit, as the main way to store information, rendering them capable of existing beyond a binary state. Since qubits are capable of storing more states per unit of information, quantum computing works with more efficient algorithms and significantly reduces calculation times (4). 

Quantum computing uses specially built programs to harness the power of the qubits’ two different states, using them to run multidimensional quantum algorithms where all calculations happen simultaneously, not in linear order like in regular devices (3). The International Business Machines Corporation’s (IBM) 35-qubit quantum computer being the biggest one yet, the potential computational power of a quantum computer doubles every time another qubit is added, making it the only technology that is exponentially faster than a classical computer and remarkably more functional (8). Unhindered by the limitations of classical computing, quantum computers use interactions between subatomic particles to produce results that may lead to new ways of operating in various fields, such as healthcare. Quantum computing can be applied to drug development and testing, diagnostic assistance, predictive and individualized healthcare, and instigate numerous discoveries in the medical sector.  

Quantum computing will transform the way and speed in which drugs are produced, as conducting clinical trials through computer simulations will become possible without having to test on a single living cell. In silico clinical trials (virtual clinical trials that test on computer-generated patients) will allow more unrestricted methods of testing treatments without causing physical or social consequences (6). Consequently, companies will be able to establish the effectiveness of a drug by taking various samples, testing different doses, and adjusting intervals of administration only within a matter of days. Another major advantage of in silico trials is the substantial cost and time savings (5). They require fewer medical resources, evade the process of recruiting patients, and shorten time-consuming procedures. As drug testing becomes increasingly cost and time-effective, new medicine will be approved for public use within just a few weeks at relatively affordable prices, rendering medication accessible to significantly more people.  

Today, diagnosis is mostly based on patient-reported symptoms and therefore has a higher risk factor. Recommended treatment is more likely to fail since a patient’s health condition is volatile and their symptom reports may be inaccurate (7). However, as quantum computers make it possible to store and find correlations among large amounts of data, the potential for precision medicine increases. The precision-based approach takes into account the variability of genes and the environment to develop a report of granular health status, which is then used as the base for individualized medical care (9). Quantum computing will make navigating through patient records more efficient, allowing doctors to develop precise disease treatment and prevention strategies for specific groups of people rather than just the average person. 

Similarly, using genome analysis, the emerging field of predictive healthcare determines matters like risk factors for chronic disease, potential effects of viruses, and other biological tendencies (5). This analysis is made possible by DNA sequencing, which determines the order of thousands of chemical bases on a strand of DNA, a complicated process that takes a considerable amount of time. Quantum computers can reduce DNA sequencing to a matter of seconds and identify patterns to present a more comprehensive analysis of one’s genome (6). This way, quantum computing provides tools that help healthcare workers track how a person’s risk for a given condition might change over time. Eventually, quantum computers could assess individual tendencies for disease and leverage these insights on a population level, reforming the way in which everyday medical practices are carried out in our lives. 

Visual demonstration of superimposition

The International Business Machine Corporation’s (IBM) 53-bit quantum computer


  1. Sharma, Siddharth. (2020, June 4). The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Quantum Computing and its Applications. Towards Data Science. Retrieved from https://towardsdatascience.com/the-ultimate-beginners-guide-to-quantum-computing-and-its-applications-5b43c8fbcd8f
  1. Giles, Martin. (2019, January 29). Explainer: What is a quantum computer? MIT Technology Review. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/2019/01/29/66141/what-is-quantum-computing/ 
  1. Powell, Corey. (1996, September 16). Subatomic Logic. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/subatomic-logic/ 
  1. ETHKO. (2022, February 18). The future of quantum technology applied to medicine. ETHKO Hospital Engineering. Retrieved from https://www.etkho.com/en/the-future-of-quantum-technology-applied-to-medicine/ 
  1. Ever Healthcare. (2022, July 25). Benefits of Quantum Technology in Medicine. EVER. Retrieved from https://www.evernetwork.io/blog-posts/benefits-quantum-technology-medicine
  1. The Medical Futurist (2022, July 5). What Can Quantum Computing Do To Healthcare? The Medical Futurist. Retrieved from https://medicalfuturist.com/quantum-computing-in-healthcare/
  1. Fogel, Alexander and Joseph Kvedar. (2018, March 14). Artificial intelligence powers digital medicine. Digital Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41746-017-0012-2.pdf 
  1. Sutor, Bob. (2018, October 18). Scientists Prove a Quantum Computing Advantage over Classical. IBM. Retrieved from https://www.ibm.com/blogs/research/2018/10/quantum-advantage-2/ 
  1. IBM Institute for Business Value. (2020, June). Exploring quantum computing use cases for healthcare. IBM. Retrieved from https://www.ibm.com/downloads/cas/8QDGKDZJ 
  1. Zahorodko, Pavlo and Yevhenii Modlo. (2020, November 27). Quantum enhanced machine learning: an overview. CEUR Workshop Proceedings. Retrieved from http://ceur-ws.org/Vol-2832/paper13.pdf


  1. Giles, Martin. (2019, January 29). Explainer: What is a quantum computer? MIT Technology Review. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/2019/01/29/66141/what-is-quantum-computing/ 
  1. Knight, Shawn. (2019, September 18). IBM is launching a 53-qubit quantum computer next month. Techspot. Retrieved from https://www.techspot.com/news/81961-ibm-launching-53-qubit-quantum-computer-next-month.html
  1. Russell, John. (2019, September 19). IBM Opens Quantum Computing Center; Announces 53-Qubit Machine. HPC Wire. Retrieved from https://www.hpcwire.com/2019/09/19/ibm-opens-quantum-computing-center-announces-53-qubit-machine/