An increasing number of people in the medical profession are ...
Technology has arguably been the greatest phenomenon of the modern era, transforming industries and behaviours across the globe. The healthcare industry, like most others, has seen technology inspire progress and innovation within the field. This article will examine the number of ways that technology has developed and transformed the healthcare industry over the past few decades.
Scientists are now successfully creating human body parts using 3D printing, opening up a whole world of exciting medical applications including replacement of skin, organs, teeth and limbs. 3D printed models are also now being used to plan difficult surgical procedures such as brain surgery, spinal surgery and craniofacial reconstruction.
Like many organisations today, healthcare institutions are moving to the use of outsourced cloud services for their record storage, applications and infrastructure services. This is because they only have to pay for what they use, their resources can be scaled up or down as needed and there is no requirement for costly on-premise hardware, software and IT personnel.
Augmented reality is being used to allow medical professionals to ‘see’ inside the human body for both teaching and research purposes. It is also being used to treat patients with phobias by desensitising them using virtual simulations of their fears and to improve the quality of life for dementia sufferers by providing a calming virtual environment in which they can find solace.
The Internet of Things (IoT) involves combining everyday objects with Internet connectivity and data analytic capabilities to create intelligent networks. An example of this is where Internet enabled sensors and tags attached to everyday items such as hospital beds and gowns are being used to track the progress of patients through hospitals from admission through to release. The aim is to improve the patient experience, to speed up treatment times and to reduce the likelihood of errors or misdiagnosis occurring.
The latest super fast 5G Internet connection speeds mean that doctors will soon be able to perform remote surgery. This is where a surgeon controls and operates a surgical robot from a remote location (such robots already exist, with the Da Vinci surgery robot currently performing thousands of operations a year).
Big data has become a powerful tool, no matter which industry it is applied to. In the healthcare field, big data has enabled population science to be conducted, where vast amounts of data from populations across the globe can be collected and analysed to identify trends and work towards treatment (particularly important in the identification and control of epidemics).
With the advent of the Internet and search engines, more people are conducting online searches in an attempt to research and identify their symptoms. While self diagnosis is not recommended, the fact that there is so much medical information available online means that patients are now able to read up and research in greater detail than ever before.
Patient information, tests, results and notes can now all be stored in a central online store. The benefits of this are limitless, with data analysis now being used to identify and compare trends and medical billing systems allowing for greater efficiency in hospitals and medical practices. Electronic medical records are also accessible by various care providers, making for better management of a patient’s treatment, recovery and overall health.
Doctors can now communicate with one another through interactive videos, forums and online conferences. They can also communicate with patients in rural areas via video links, allowing for better support and more regular doctor-patient conversations. Patients can also communicate with others who are suffering from the same illness or disease, which is particularly important for those afflicted with rare or terminal illnesses.
There are now many apps available for smartphones that help users with meditation, calorie tracking and exercise logging, but perhaps the greatest innovation is the combination of all those things with wearable devices. As well as helping to improve personal fitness and possibly avert medical emergencies, this is likely to lead to a more active generation who are more aware of their general well being than past generations.
The rate of change in technology is exponential and the healthcare sector is ripe to take advantage of the efficiencies it has bought. Time will tell what further developments will be made and what technologies will be deemed futile, but one thing is for certain – technology has the power to transform medicine and general health for the better.
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