10 Ways Technology Is Improving Health Care
By: Keith Krach
The health care industry has been relatively slow to adopt new technologies in comparison to other industries. Due to strict regulations and the sensitive nature of medical information, the industry has proceeded with caution. Nevertheless, the field has made significant strides that have redefined the way in which physicians practice medicine and patients receive treatment.
Recently, there has been an increase in the number of hospitals that have implemented electronic health record (EHR) systems. According to the PwC Health Research Institute, only 9 percent of these facilities used EHRs 10 years ago, as compared with approximately 90 percent today. A wide range of other digital technologies have led to improvements in the health care sector. Here are a few examples.
1. Increased connectivity among physicians.
Digital platforms have redefined the social sphere, and new technology has made it easier than ever for physicians to connect with one another in order to share information. New apps have reached the market that allow physicians to post recent findings and initiate conversations on their mobile devices, which reduces the amount of time needed to get in touch with colleagues.
2. Smartphone-based devices offer readings, aid in the delivery of care.
Another major development is the ability of smartphone-based devices to monitor your blood sugar level and your heart rate. Companion devices go one step further and actually deliver care to patients. For instance, the MiniMed 670G can recognize when people with Type 1 diabetes need insulin and then administer the proper amount of medication automatically.
3. Computers provide input on medical decisions.
As computers become more sophisticated, they are quickly becoming a valuable aid to health care professionals. Computers can now offer input on X-rays and similar diagnostics to help physicians make more timely and informed decisions. The same is true when it comes to developing new drugs and determining the best route for treating patients. Machines gather and analyze data in real time, providing a second opinions to health care professionals.
4. New utility for 3D printing.
While the advent of 3D printing has impacted multiple markets, it has been particularly beneficial to the health care sector. For a low price, physicians can print out synthetic skin, implants, and prosthetics. They can also create realistic models to practice procedures.
5. Greater access to DNA sequencing.
In 2003, researchers sequenced the human genome for the first time. The process, which lasted 13 years, cost nearly $3 billion to complete. Developments in technology have since reduced the cost to a mere $1,000. The data found in DNA is now more accessible to physicians and patients. Sequencing platforms continue to advance and open new doors.
6. Remote health exams.
The concept behind the health check chair is simple: an in-home chair reads all of a patient’s basic vitals and transmits the data to a physician. The chair makes it possible for patients to obtain regular, basic checkups without leaving the comfort of their homes. As developers find new ways to produce this equipment in more cost-effective ways, the technology will likely become more mainstream.
7. Pharmaceutical firms have more access to data to improve their products.
As EHRs become more prevalent and access to genetic data increases, pharmaceutical companies are gaining access to more resources to inform their product development decisions. The way in which these organizations decide to utilize this information will depend in part on how they generate income.
Some businesses have begun to charge customers for drugs based on effectiveness rather than usage. Not all pharmaceutical companies will adopt this approach — at least not right away — but as more do, they will have the ability to improve the quality of their output.
8. More online and mobile educational opportunities.
Aspiring health care professionals, particularly nurses, are finding it easier to pursue their education by taking courses online. Remote access to medical training has also made it easier for physicians to learn and expand their skill set in more isolated areas of the world. The increased ability to access education in formerly secluded regions of the world equates to more health care opportunities for people who truly need them.
9. Reduced risk and recovery time.
Technological advancements have improved the safety of medical procedures. Due to technological innovations such as laser treatments, medical procedures are now less invasive and pose fewer risks. What’s more, the use of new technology has significantly reduced recovery time, in some case from several weeks down to a couple of days.
10. Advancements in robotics and nanotechnology.
Besides laser technology, other recent developments include surgical robots and nano-devices. Through the use of these tools, physicians have been able to increase their accuracy and gain entry to formerly inaccessible areas. One nano-robot, for example, can actually swim through fluids in the body, including the bloodstream and the surface of the eye.