Technology is constantly changing the way we interact with the world. The healthcare industry, in particular, is continuously evolving in tandem with technology. Many of the things we now view as easily treatable were once death sentences. Consider the fact that simple antibiotics are less than 100 years old.
In most cases, technology changes the health industry for the better. Here are seven ways technology is changing and improving healthcare now.
Streamlining Service Delivery
One of the most notable developments in recent decades is the streamlining of service delivery through the implementation of technology. Twenty years ago, most medical practices were using paper files, charts, and fax machines. There was no centralized access for patient information, making service delivery between specialists and GPs a nightmare.
According to RevenueXL, the implementation of Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology has streamlined everything from scheduling to insurance claims to billing. The use of this technology reduces the risks of patients falling between the cracks while mitigating human error. According to John Hopkins Medicine, medical errors were deemed to be the third leading cause of death in the U.S. at the dawn of the millennium.
While it may seem secondary to some of the more notable healthcare innovations of the last few decades, these clerical tools help improve patient care, from experience to quality.
Improving Accessibility with Telemedicine
Another significant development in recent years is the surge in telemedicine. Accessibility to reliable internet and cloud-based technology has made it easier for patients to seek medical attention — especially in rural areas.
The use of this particular technological development skyrocketed during 2020 when many government agencies advised switching to this type of practice. Like EHR systems, telemedicine also streamlines and improves service delivery.
Rather than commuting and waiting to see a doctor, often missing work and losing income in the process, patients can seek assistance from anywhere. This access has tremendous benefits, especially for certain socioeconomic groups or people living in rural areas.
Streamlined Vaccine Development
The discussion surrounding vaccine development is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Much of the controversy surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine stems from the fact that mRNA vaccines have never been utilized to such a scale before.
While the use of mRNA vaccines was first put forth by Hungarian scientist Katalin Karikó during the 1990s, the idea was well ahead of its time. Ironically, the innovation that’s now at the global pandemic’s frontlines ended up being a career killer for Karikó.
After the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s, mRNA vaccines were revisited as a possible combatant against epidemic outbreaks. While the process is yet to be refined, and COVID-19 is still a top priority, many scientists believe that the last decade’s developments will help them develop singular vaccines for various infectious diseases. Furthermore, these developments make production significantly faster.
Virtual and Augmented Reality in Training
We’re still in the primordial ooze when it comes to AR and VR’s potential in our world. However, many healthcare institutions are already capitalizing on this exciting technology to train medical professionals. Surgeons, in particular, are benefiting from VR training opportunities to hone their skills. The introduction of this technology has already marked a 230% improvement in performance over traditional training methods.
Augmented reality is being used similarly, mitigating the need for live patients or medical cadavers on which to train. The result? Better healthcare providers with fewer resources.
3D Printed Tissues and Organs
3D printed organs aren’t quite ready yet. However, bioengineered bladders have been effectively 3D printed and used successfully for several years. The challenge is that organ transplant demand for bladders is low, and the other organs are considerably more complex.
As of 2019, the team at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have successfully printed skin with blood vessels. This development, though not yet in clinical trials, could revolutionize wound treatment.
Self-Led Health Tracking and Diagnostics
Technology has also improved diagnostics and preventative medicine by providing tools for self-led health tracking.
Wearable technology, such as the FitBit and Apple Watch, capture useful biometrics that could someday be used to assist with healthcare. Imagine walking into the doctor’s office and scanning your fitness tracker to share your resting heart rate, sleep patterns, etc.
Another area of self-led health tracking and diagnostics comes in the form of genetic sequencing. Services like 23andMe are giving customers insights into their genetic health backgrounds, highlighting potential issues well before they develop.
Better Medical Forecasting
Finally, the internet and AI have made medical forecasting more accurate and attainable. Data from internet searches can help predict where outbreaks will occur. Applications are now available that allow patients experiencing certain illnesses to self-report and improve tracking, as we’ve seen with COVID-19.
With technology developing at an exponential rate, it’s exhilarating to watch how the world of healthcare unfolds in response.