FCG Fahrenheit
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FCG Fahrenheit

Does healthcare need more technology innovation?

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world hasn’t been able to get a grip on proper treatments and protocols for the coronavirus. COVID-19 is shaping the way that every industry is and will be doing business by promoting digital innovation, and with healthcare being one of the few industries that have always utilized in-person interaction, more technology could bridge the gap even further for patients to get quality health care.

In these times, many hospitals and private practices do have strict precautions for patients who choose to visit in-person, but many doctors, especially those who deal with non-life-threatening emergencies have resorted to telehealth, in an attempt to treat patients. Most doctors engaging in telehealth are general practitioners, family physicians, or doctors who treat chronic conditions, like diabetes. These doctors are still able to prescribe medications virtually, which in fact can be more convenient for some who have chronic conditions and require ongoing prescriptions, but in terms of taking proper vitals, measurements can be lost in translation and concerns could easily go undetected.

Along with primary care providers, most situations that one may typically go to urgent care for can also be diagnosed virtually as well. Strep throats and urinary tract infections being the most popular illnesses that doctors treat and diagnose through urgent care have noticeable symptoms that patients can feel, so it’s simple to prescribe the necessary medications.

While telehealth has been successful for treating low-risk patients, more innovative technology, when it comes to imaging and computerized tomography scans, has been in the works since pre-COVID times but has made its debut more recently. Lumify released a handheld ultrasound device that allows doctors to view lung and heart complications faster, as well as track pregnancy growth. Even when it comes to most of the image readings, radiologists require specific technology equipment to view these images, and most of the time it’s easier to keep all records at the hospital to limit any privacy breaches. Phillips released a product a few years ago, called IntelliSite that allows pathologists to view tissue images on-screen remotely, limiting the need to use microscopes in the lab. Similar technology used to create IntelliSite is now being used by radiologists in a similar way to view patient tissue and organ images remotely.

Because of the pandemic, adequate health care services have been able to be conducted remotely, and technology that seemed to be unnecessary back then is extremely relevant now. By promoting these wireless technologies, patients at hospitals limit their exposure to other units which prevents them from potential infections or cross-contamination. Telehealth is becoming the preferred method of care now because it’s more convenient to schedule times.

Similar to any industry going through massive technology transformation, it begs the question: as the healthcare industry goes through major innovation changes, will it become more accessible for those who need it the most?

Healthcare costs are only going to increase, and with little to none government aid, the gap between those who need healthcare and those who can afford it will get worse. Although telehealth is more conducive, not everybody has reliable access to a telephone or internet, so these innovations and remote tactics are only helping those who can afford it. This issue of accessibility isn’t just involved within healthcare — any industry that dives too far down the rabbit hole of technology is at risk of promoting unequal opportunities. Healthcare may receive more scrutiny since it’s an industry providing a necessity but charged as a luxury.

At the macro-level, the way healthcare is provided in the United States has to change, and these technology innovations often overshadow that problem since they’re able to provide a few services extremely well that cater to a select group of people. Technology innovations in health care are great, but if they are marketed as a basic service, then they need to be more accessible and affordable for the majority of people to utilize.

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A publication for UIC FCG Consulting

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Megan Mehta

Megan Mehta

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