If you ask the typical healthcare consumer how the industry has been impacted by technology, you’re likely to hear futuristic stories that just a few years ago would have seemed improbable, such as using nanoparticles to prevent heart failure or mapping brain surgery through virtual reality. But the actual reality is that technological advancements have greatly improved every aspect of healthcare—even before a patient steps foot in a facility seeking care. Let’s look at four major components of healthcare that have rapidly advanced through technology updates.
If you want to collect information about patient behavior, you’ll likely have to rely on self-reporting, which is notoriously unreliable, or frequent testing, which can be expensive and inconvenient.
The proliferation of smartphones and wearable trackers such as Fitbits has made it possible to monitor and record a patient’s activity and vital signs remotely, without the need for constant medical monitoring. It also allows doctors access to objective, reliable data with which they can make informed medical decisions.
Using wearable monitors, diabetes patients can track their blood sugar values in real time, the elderly can live longer in their homes instead of in hospitals, drug research can reduce the cost and inconvenience of phase II clinical trials , neurologists can test for Parkinson’s disease more easily and clinicians can evaluate children with autism more objectively.
Diagnosis is a professional judgment based on available data. This leaves a lot of room for human error, be it from unreliable patient self-reports to misinterpretation of data to insufficient measurement.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence can now identify trends in large data sets, leading to faster and more accurate diagnoses. This allows for more sensitive tests and more successful interventions.
A machine learning algorithm can identify an intraoperative hypotensive event before it appears with sensitivity and specificity close to 90%. An AI program reliably interprets mammograms 30 times faster with 99% accuracy. Radiologists using AI technology can visualize 3D volumes of the prostate gland and lesions, and hospital “smart beds” can use a wireless sensor network to reduce bedsores.
Traditionally, treatment would require personal doctor-to-patient interventions that risk human error and unforeseen complications.
Now, while no medical intervention is truly foolproof, technological improvements have made treatment safer and more affordable, and in some cases, even turn off disease.
Telemedicine has made certain low-risk interventions more convenient and widely available by making them remote. CRISPR gene editing can correct genetic mutations that cause conditions such as muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis. 3D printing can be used to print custom-made surgery guides and implants to replace diseased body parts. Robotic arms and cameras have been used to assist in heart surgery, and stem cells can replace cells infected by disease as well as test new drugs for safety and efficacy.
Running and building your practice
In most of the country, medical practices are still run with twentieth-century technology—voice mail, fax machines, photocopies, and phone call reminders.
Now, updated communication systems can increase both efficiency and patient safety, reducing errors and freeing up your staff to work on more important projects.
Analytics can help hospitals accurately predict patient admissions, while specialized text messaging apps transmit important medical messages securely and in full HIPAA compliance. Appointment scheduling and reminders can be done without human interaction, and digitized health records are easier to organize and protect. Online reviews make it possible to build your reputation in the community. Electronic prescriptions reduce dosing errors and give doctors and patients easy access to prescription history, while employees spend less time tracking assets, from wheelchairs to defibrillators, that are equipped with real-time location systems.
Making sure your practice stays current can not only keep it from feeling out of date, but it can also help you provide the modern healthcare services your community needs. This not only increases convenience – it creates better results.
Technology has revolutionized the healthcare industry, enabling faster and more accurate diagnoses, improved treatments and greater patient safety. From computer-aided diagnostics to robotics, from telemedicine to data analytics, technology has changed the healthcare game and will continue to play an increasingly important role in the industry.