Saturday 5 August 2023

Six Amazing Ways Technology Is Changing the Healthcare Field

Advancements in the medical field can have amazing benefits for life as we know it. Discover six technological developments that are making a significant impact on today’s medical care and the healthcare industry as a whole.


By Aaron Smith

The healthcare field has come a long way from where it began. Advancements in technology led to the development of anesthesia in 1846, preventing patients from feeling pain throughout a procedure. A few decades later, in 1972, a biomedical engineer named Godfrey Hounsfield performed the world’s first computerized tomography (CT) scan.


What can you expect as a patient or employee in the healthcare field as technology advances? Here’s a closer look at several healthcare technology innovations on the horizon.

1. Digitizing Health Records


If you have been in a doctor’s office in the last few years, you probably saw nurses transporting laptops or carrying tablet devices to document your information. Between digitizing records and new ergonomic medical solutions, keeping your information updated and accessible to medical staff is faster than ever.


Doing away with archaic paper-based records isn’t a brand-new innovation. The healthcare field began moving to digitize patient records in 2009 after the passing of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Adopting electronic health records (EHRs) helps medical companies save time and instantly gain a clear understanding of a patient’s overall health. A study published in 2014 reported that 78% of physicians using EHRs noticed enhanced overall patient care.


Continued implementation and usage of EHRs can eliminate the need for paper-based information. Electronic records are typically far more secure than a stack of papers locked in a filing cabinet.

2. The Changing Face of Telehealth

In 2020, the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus led to shutdowns, stay-at-home orders, and hospitals packed to the brim with patients. These combined factors caused the healthcare industry to face challenges in seeing and treating patients. These challenges led to the development of telehealth.


Telehealth or telemedicine uses technology to let healthcare professionals and patients interact digitally. Telehealth enables people to receive care from home instead of sitting in an ER or urgent care facility's waiting room. Utilizing remote technology lets healthcare facilities monitor patient information and reduce operating expenses.


In 2023, with many COVID-era restrictions lifted, telehealth remains but faces waning popularity. Some medical experts feel telehealth will remain most valuable for patients needing long-term care rather than for occasional illnesses such as seasonal flu.


3. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

From self-checkouts to chatbots, many industries are adopting artificial intelligence with open arms. You likely remember seeing news stories about AI entering the worlds of art and music. However, AI isn’t just able to replicate music and art; it’s also entering the healthcare field. Although not at a widespread rate, the medical world is slowly integrating AI into many operations.


Fortunately, AI won’t replace doctors, nurses, and other medical staff. But, as medical facilities grow more comfortable with AI, it can help people in many healthcare-related roles. AI could also help provide the power for massive pharmaceutical and healthcare research algorithms.


There’s also been a recent surge in AI-enabled medical devices authorized by the FDA.

4. An Increased Need for Enhanced Cybersecurity


As technology continually pushes industries forward, it also presents certain challenges. One of these challenges involves protection against cybersecurity risks. A secure cybersecurity system keeps confidential patient information safe while preventing facilities from the fallout of data breaches.


Unfortunately, recent trends show that cyberattacks within the healthcare industry are rapidly rising. Check Point noted a 38% spike in the average number of cyberattacks targeting healthcare companies during 2022. Estimates from the same year suggested that ransomware attacks in the medical field affected nearly 44 million people’s data.


These worrisome trends understandably have hospitals, physician's offices, and other healthcare practices beefing up their cybersecurity budgets. Some lawmakers also note the need for increased federal privacy data legislation as AI becomes more widespread.

5. Meet Your Digital Twin

Commonly referred to as digital twins, this medical phenomenon lets healthcare professionals create virtual replicas of their patients. Medical workers can then test hypothetical scenarios for how patients respond to medications, surgery, and other treatments.


While a medical simulation runs one process at a time, digital twins offer entire worlds of simulations running simultaneously. For instance, a medical provider can age virtual twins to learn how to provide better long-term care to their real-life counterparts.


The concept of a digital twin may also help revolutionize treatment for cancer patients. The Role of AI for Developing Digital Twins in Healthcare: the Case of Cancer Care, a paper published by Wiley Periodicals in 2022, notes that combining AI with digital twins could improve care and patient satisfaction metrics for people fighting cancer.

6. Enter the Metaverse

Meta’s effort to build a virtual reality dubbed “the Metaverse” has been a bumpy road. This company faces a struggle between big tech ushering in virtual reality with many companies wanting workers back in their physical offices. There’s also the highly debated topic of whether companies will or won’t adopt operating in the Metaverse. Fortunately, major Metaverse-related programs and app developments are happening in healthcare.


One such development comes from Fundamental Surgery, a company using VR and the Metaverse to train medical professionals. Its Haptic VR program utilizes a combination of VR and haptic systems. This program lets medical workers simulate the feelings of working on bones, muscles, and other tissues. CollaborationVR lets trainers and students work within the Metaverse while living states or even continents apart.


Virtual reality may improve how people care for mental health. Groups can hold virtual meetings without every member in the same location. Some therapists also treat patients in the Metaverse. In this digital environment, mental health professionals can speak with patients in a virtual setting to calm those needing quick or remote treatment.


As you can see, many current and upcoming technological advances in the medical field exist. Within the next several years, many medical experts believe the previously mentioned innovations will bring many positive ramifications for patients and healthcare workers.


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