Modern technologies in medicine and healthcare: their impact and future predictions

Healthcare advances have been occurring at a rapid pace over the past two decades. Advances in technology have impacted all aspects of healthcare. These advances are not limited to only drugs and devices but may also include new surgical procedures as well as new applications of existing technology. But what impact will these changes have on medicine and overall care delivery?

Without doubt, medical technology is very important for people’s health and improvement of quality of their life. It also contributes a lot of money to the economy. There are many advantages that innovative technology brings to the table when it comes to healthcare.

The impact of technological innovations on our life:

For example, the widespread adoption of electronic health records (EHR) has resulted in significant savings in health care costs as well as improved patient health and safety. In more and more healthcare facilities, patient files are being kept in databases that can be accessed from anywhere in the facility. This doesn’t only save time but also results in better data coordination and management.

It is also technological innovation that has opened the door to more non-invasive procedures. Diagnostics have never been easier and more accurate, especially due to advancements in areas like nuclear medicine. Nowadays numerous methods of imaging allow technicians and physicians to examine a patient’s anatomy without needing invasive procedures to form a diagnosis.

Minimally invasive surgeries, especially cardiovascular and thoracic surgeries, have also become more common in recent years. The development of better instruments and more advanced technology have allowed surgeons to perform procedures in minimally invasive ways that just wasn’t possible a few years ago.

Technology can also bring hidden dangers if you aren’t careful. The internet in particular is known for this. Though some would disagree, the infinite flow of medical knowledge available online is not always a good thing. Though some websites can be a great resource for living a healthy lifestyle, but they should never be used to replace your physician. Self-diagnosis is a dangerous thing. At best you’ll scare yourself into thinking something is seriously wrong when it isn’t. At worst you’ll misdiagnose yourself and cause serious damage to your health and wellbeing. In the long term, however, it may cost you much more than you ever expected.

Predictions for How IT Will Impact Healthcare in 2014

 Undoubtedly, information technologies have had an immense impact on the current state of healthcare and their influence is only increasing. And what could we expect from the next year for the healthcare IT sector? Is it going to be a big year for upheaval in it? Current research reveals exciting possibilities as technology and healthcare continue to advance. Here’s a look at some technologies revolutionizing the medical field:

  •  Tablet use and healthcare apps will continue to grow

 As well as doctors’ shifting from paper toward an electronic era, the use of tablets will continue to increase. Mobile devices have optimized practices throughout the country, and their capabilities are ever growing. Quoting Bill Ho, the president of Biscom (a company that provides enterprise fax and secure file-transfer technology), “Doctors and other healthcare professionals will not only be able to access patient records, but they’ll be able to sign off on treatments and prescriptions without being tethered to their offices or the hospital”. Similarly, healthcare apps are becoming increasingly popular amongst both patients and physicians. These apps allow patients to find local physicians or hospitals, learn about symptoms and treatments, and exchange healthcare questions and answers. In today’s digital age, the use of both tablets and apps for healthcare will continue to grow and flourish.

  •  Practices will travel to the cloud

Many practices have chosen to take all of their digital information to the cloud while choosing an EHR system. These cloud-based EHRs are easier to integrate into a practice’s existing workflow. Cloud technology will enable healthcare providers to improve services and more easily share technology without needing to invest in hardware infrastructures and maintenance. The technology will contribute to the access and sharing of patient data and records between healthcare professionals in real-time. Patient care will become more personalized and thorough as healthcare providers can focus less on accessing data, and more on patients themselves.

  •  Telehealth

Telehealth is health-related services or information being delivered through telecommunications technologies. This can range from physicians speaking amongst themselves, or to patients via the phone, to robotic surgeries being performed between facilities in different parts of the world. In a time in which medical additional payments increase in cost, many corporations have begun to encourage their employees to connect more easily with physicians through telehealth services. Also, for patients willing to pay for convenience, virtual visits via video increased in quality and accessibility. Telehealth has grown to focus not just on the curative aspects of healthcare, but also to the preventative and promotive aspects of medicine.

  •  3D printing:

California-based research company Organovo has printed human liver tissue to test drug toxicity on specific sections of the liver. Although printing organs for transplants may still be far off, this technology could be used in the near future with individual patients to test their toxicity reactions to specific drugs.

  •  Artificial intelligence:

IBM’s Watson (an artificially intelligent computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language) is just the first step toward using artificial intelligence in medicine. The supercomputer, which defeated two human champions on the quiz show “Jeopardy!”  in 2011, is now being used to diagnose and manage lung cancer treatment. Imagine a computer that could evaluate and analyze a patient’s entire genome, biometric data and environmental and personal data, including diet and activity level. The quantity of information could be too much for a person to analyze efficiently, so adding an artificial intelligence component could help achieve a new level of understanding.

  •  BCIs and BBIs:

As brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) become more advanced, healthcare will incorporate more complex human-computer connections. The uses range from helping people manage pain to controlling robotic limbs. Harvard University researchers recently created the first brain-to-brain interface (BBI) that allowed a human to control a rat’s tail — and another human’s movements — with his mind, proving that controlled robotic limbs have far-reaching possibilities for patients.

  •  Robotics:

Robotics are quickly advancing medical treatment. Ekso Bionics (the company which develops and manufactures intelligently powered exoskeleton bionic devices that can enhance the strength, mobility, and endurance of soldiers and paraplegics) has already launched the first version of its exoskeleton, which enables paraplegics to stand and walk independently. This revolutionary technology allows a person who has spent 20 years in a wheelchair to stand on her own. This holds huge promise for the next generation of robotics.

Advances in technology have already made healthcare better, easier, more accurate and more efficient for physicians, patients, hospital staff and administrators. All these advances translate into one main objective: improving patient outcomes. With access to more powerful tools that are cheaper, faster and better than their predecessors, patient outcomes are certain to improve. People will become increasingly responsible for their own health. This will lead to more effective care, as people will be able to detect problems much earlier in the process. Patients will no longer put off appointments for years because personal health will be ever-present. This will reduce healthcare costs on several levels and change the type of medical professionals the industry needs most.  We can’t even anticipate much of what will come after all of this, but the possibilities for technology and healthcare really are endless.

And where do you see Healthcare Technology standing in the next year and beyond? What are your point of view about the challenges and opportunists of Healthcare IT Industry in the coming years? Please feel free to share your thoughts!