It wasn’t until the 1960s that discussions about computers enhancing the practice of medicine began. Computer technology seemed promising – it could help clinicians access procedure results and literature faster. It could also help reduce medical errors. However, medical administrators were hesitant to invest in technology as they could not guarantee the benefits.
Fast forward to the 21st century and modern medicine is anchored on technology, and it keeps getting better by the day. In light of these technological advancements, institutions such as Rockhurst University offer programs that prepare students for modern healthcare. A program such as a nurse practitioner masters will give you the clinical and non-clinical skills you need to navigate the industry. Even better, the coursework is 100% online alongside clinical hours to give you hands-on training.
In this article, we will discuss some of the recent technological advancements that will alter modern-day healthcare.
Telemedicine is the use of digital information and communication technologies to access healthcare services remotely. This technology ensures that more people can access healthcare, including those who live in remote areas and those with limited mobility. Telehealth is helpful to both patients and healthcare professionals in many ways.
Healthcare organizations can use telemedicine to offer virtual visits. This means that a patient can talk to a healthcare provider via video or phone chat. Before the online consultation session, the patient can fill out forms online. All that is needed is a device with internet access.
Telemedicine also comes in handy with patient monitoring. A nurse can use various technologies to keep up with a patient’s status without seeing them in person. For instance, the patient can use a mobile app to upload data, such as blood sugar levels and food logs. The nurse on the other side can review the data and give recommendations.
Besides offering comfort and convenience to patients, telemedicine also reduces exposure to infectious illnesses. Additionally, it offers flexibility for healthcare providers. They can reduce the number of hours they go to the office without compromising the quality of care they provide to patients. This promotes work-life balance, something that would be considered a luxury in the healthcare industry.
Another undeniable benefit of telehealth is access to emergency psychiatric care. People experiencing mental health emergencies, including those at risk of self-harm, can connect with a psychiatrist at any time and receive assistance.
While there has been a widespread acceptance of telemedicine, there are a few limitations. However, we can expect a future in telemedicine that addresses the current limitations. For instance, providers and health professionals will push for technologies that guarantee confidential communication. Healthcare activists may also advocate for funding and policies that allow vulnerable communities to access telehealth services.
The last couple of years have seen a rapid increase in digital wellness wearables. These devices are made of transducers and target receptors that detect changes in the body and provide real-time updates. For instance, a patient with diabetes can wear a glucose monitor. In the past, wearable devices were only used for measuring heart rate. However, the technology has evolved tremendously. The demand for them has also gone up.
Notably, there are different types of wearable technology in healthcare. These include the following.
- Health monitoring devices
These devices have sensors and actuators. They also have processing and communication capabilities. They can measure a patient’s vitals, such as body temperature and blood pressure. They then transmit that data to healthcare providers via apps installed on mobile phones or other devices.
- Therapeutic devices
Therapeutic devices monitor metrics related to disease therapy and treatment. Examples include insulin pumps, respiratory therapy devices, and rehabilitation devices. Some of them have sensors that can monitor a patient’s physical condition, allowing a physician to adjust the therapy accordingly.
- Activity tracking devices
Activity tracking devices measure vital signs during activity. They synchronize the data with an application and then transmit the information for interpretation.
Wearable technology has several benefits. It gives healthcare providers real-time updates on their patients. Professionals can also use the data from wearable devices to predict major health events and catch a disease early on. This increases the chances of recovery as interventions are implemented at the right time.
The healthcare wearable gadgets market is expected to continue to grow as there is an increased interest from end users. We can also expect healthcare tech companies to continue inventing more sophisticated wearables.
3D printing is capturing the attention of the healthcare field due to its potential to improve treatment for certain medical conditions. The technology is useful in planning surgeries. For instance, a radiologist can use 3D printing to create a replica of the patient’s spine to work out the best procedure to undertake. This technique has been proven to speed up procedures and minimize patient trauma. 3D printing is also applied in the manufacture of sterile customized tools, such as forceps and clamps. Besides the incredibly precise tools, production costs are also significantly lower.
Similarly, 3D printing can be used to produce customized dental restorations, prosthetic limbs, orthopedic implants, and cranial implants. The use of 3D printing significantly speeds up the process, so amputees do not have to wait weeks or months to receive prosthetics. Prosthetics manufactured with 3D printing technology are cheaper, making them ideal for children who outgrow their prosthetic limbs quickly.
Another application of 3D printing is streamlining drug administration through 3D-printing pills. It eliminates the need for scheduling and close monitoring. Consequently, it leads to increased medication adherence to prescribed treatments. It also lowers production costs due to the ability to treat more infections simultaneously. This also means greater accessibility to medication in developing countries due to affordability.
Notably, 3D printers are not regulated by the FDA. However, the medical products made via this technology are regulated. The type of regulation depends on the kind of product being made, the intended use, and the potential risks to patients. The FDA classifies devices based on their level of risk. Class I devices are low risk, while Class III products are considered high risk.
Virtual reality (VR) in healthcare is nothing short of fascinating. Although the technology is relatively new, it presents a lot of possibilities. For instance, it can be used as a tool for training. Students can watch surgical operations as if they are wielding the scalpel. They can use this technology to refine their skills before stepping into real-life situations.
VR technology can also be used to relax patients. It is normal for patients to feel worried about an upcoming medical procedure and the pain they will endure. However, they can use VR headsets to view calming landscapes during the procedure. This helps to calm their anxiety. The same can be used for women going through labor pain.
Another application of VR in healthcare is enhancing medical conferences. Some conferences can get tedious, with long speeches and bullet points that don’t encourage audience engagement. This can be a thing of the past with the help of VR, which offers solutions such as 3D visualization, gamification and audience engagement.
VR will also transform healthcare by allowing healthcare providers to experience life as their patients. For instance, a geriatric nursing student can use VR to feel what it’s like being old. That way, they can develop empathy toward their patients, which leads to better outcomes.
The technology can also help speed up recovery in physical therapy. Patients who survived a stroke or traumatic brain injury can benefit from VR training exercises. The use of VR increases patient engagement and makes it possible to tailor each exercise to a patient’s therapeutic needs.
Blockchain refers to a ledger of decentralized data that is securely shared. It enables a collective group of participants to share data. How can this technology be applied in healthcare? This powerful technology has several applications in modern healthcare, making it worth every penny to learn blockchain technology.
To begin with, blockchain technology can be used to solve supply chain issues – a common challenge in the industry. Healthcare institutions can now use blockchain-based systems to track medical goods from the manufacturing point. This reduces the chances of receiving counterfeit prescription medicines, especially in developing markets.
Similar to tracking medical goods, blockchain technology can be used to verify staff credentials. This streamlines the hiring process and reassures stakeholders.
Blockchain technology also helps in maintaining patient-centric health records. Although a patient’s information is not stored on the blockchain, any amendment to the record is logged on the system as a transaction. Patients can see every time that their records are updated, giving them a chance to give explicit consent. Medical insurance providers can also receive immediate confirmation of healthcare services from patients without the cost of an intermediary.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a technology that simulates human intelligence in machines programmed to think like humans. This automation has the potential to revolutionize healthcare in many ways. One of them is medical research. Researchers can use AI algorithms to analyze large sets of medical data. The findings are used to develop more effective and efficient practices. Similarly, healthcare professionals can use this technology to analyze electronic health records to identify patterns and insights. These can be used to improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.
AI can also be utilized in medical imaging. Professionals can use this technology to interpret images such as CT scans and X-rays. This helps in detecting problems early, increasing patients’ chances of recovery.
We are also witnessing AI-powered virtual assistants. Patients can ask general questions and get answers around the clock. Additionally, AI algorithms are used to perform predictive analytics. This means that healthcare institutions can predict the likelihood of an outbreak or other healthcare-related events. They can then take the necessary steps in readiness for that event. For instance, they can hire more staff or buy equipment.
CRISPR gene editing
CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing is an alternative to standard genetic engineering. It uses two molecules to modify DNA:
- Cas9 – the enzyme that cuts the DNA, preventing a virus from developing.
- RNA – an acid that converts DNA into proteins.
This technology is popular for its versatility. Scientists can use it to add or delete bases to silence genes, delete parts of a sequence, or add genes to replace those that cause disease. Besides the versatility, it is precise and reliable, saving time. Unlike traditional engineering, which could take months or years, the results can be seen within days or weeks. Additionally, CRISPR-Cas9 is customizable, so scientists can use it to curate tailor-made research programs.
Internet of Things
Internet of Things (IoT) technology is redefining modern healthcare by taking patient-doctor interactions to the next level. The most widely known application of IoT is the use of home monitoring equipment, but there are several other applications. For instance, this technology can be used to track the real-time location of medical equipment such as nebulizers, wheelchairs, and oxygen pumps. IoT can also monitor the hospital environment by checking refrigerator temperature and humidity metrics.
Health insurance companies are also able to leverage IoT’s power. They can use the data collected by health monitoring devices for underwriting and claims operations. That way, they can detect fraudulent claims and identify prospects for underwriting.
Additionally, IoT can be a time saver for medical researchers. They can use the data collected from these devices for statistical study. This also saves money, which can be directed to further research.
Neurotechnology is a new tech term that describes any technology that tries to understand brain function. The technology uses neural interfaces to read or write information into the central nervous system, the peripheral nervous system or the automatic nervous system. There are three categories of neurotechnologies. These are neuromodulation technologies, neuroprostheses and brain-machine interfaces.
The first category uses neural interfaces to stimulate nervous system structures. For instance, doctors can use neuromodulation techniques to reduce tremors in Parkinson’s disease. They can also use this technology to detect biomarkers in a subject’s physical movement among stroke patients.
The second category – neuroprostheses – restores or replaces sensory, motor, or cognitive functions that a subject has lost. A good example is cochlear implants, used on people with hearing loss.
The last category is brain-machine interfaces. These technologies read and/or write information into the brain to enable the subject to control external software or hardware. Although this is a relatively new technology, it is incredibly promising for people with motor disabilities.
Some diseases, such as diabetes, interfere with a wound’s healing process. Besides these chronic wounds being debilitating for the patients, it is also draining on the healthcare system. That’s where smart bandages come in. They make the treatment of wounds more effective and less expensive.
These bandages are made from flexible polymer with embedded electronics that monitor for molecules such as uric acid or conditions such as pH level. These factors serve as an indicator of inflammation or bacterial infection.
Once the bandage monitors the wound, it transmits the data to a nearby device for review by a professional. It can also respond by delivering medication stored within the bandage to the wound site to treat the inflammation. Some bandages can also apply a low-level electrical field to the wound to stimulate tissue growth, promoting faster healing.
Preparing for the future
The technologies that we have discussed above are just the tip of the iceberg – there is even more to come as far as modern medicine goes. Therefore, professionals in the healthcare industry need to be prepared for what the future holds. One way of doing so is to develop a disruptive mindset. It is important to be prepared to challenge the existing paradigms and foster a culture of innovation.
Healthcare professionals can also work closely with technology vendors to learn about new technologies and their applications in their practice. They can also participate in pilot projects to test new technologies before they are widely adopted. That way, they can give feedback to the tech companies. It is also important for medical professionals to seek education on upcoming technologies. They can do this by attending workshops and conferences. They can therefore become proficient in using new technologies.
It is also important for people in leadership to put strategies in place to help their teams embrace technological changes. They can do so by creating an environment of open communication. They also need to extend some grace to team members, as it might take some time to assimilate into new systems. Most importantly, healthcare leaders need to choose solutions wisely. While so many technologies are emerging, it’s important to weigh the advantages against the disadvantages. They should start by identifying the specific problem they are trying to solve and then choose a corresponding technology.
On the other hand, healthcare recipients need to be prepared for technological changes. One of the best ways to achieve this is through patient education. Another good idea is giving incentives. For instance, health insurance providers can incentivize clients using blockchain technology.