As with several other industries, modern technology and innovations have also revolutionized the healthcare industry. From doctor visits to medical treatments, nothing is like it was until a few decades ago.
Medical technology is the science of designing tools and software to better cater to patients’ needs and improve their overall well-being. No one can dispute the importance of health in a person’s life. Therefore, health technologies provide services that can treat or diagnose illnesses more efficiently. Besides ensuring a quick and effective patient recovery, these technologies also aim to reduce the healthcare burden and make it more accessible to larger groups of people. Undoubtedly, this field is indispensable for a better quality of life and population health.
Technology has become so ingrained in everyday life that medical practice has inherently become dependent on it—and this is for the better. But how exactly is technology impacting healthcare, and what is its impact on patients and doctors?
To answer these questions, we list the top 6 ways modern technology has and continues to innovate the healthcare sector.
- Point-of-care technologies
If you’ve ever been to a hospital or visited a doctor, you know how commonly diagnostic tests and monitoring vital signs get done. Until a few decades ago, doctors would take days, if not weeks, to receive medical reports of these tests. Such late results drastically impacted patient health and would delay treatment, making it less effective.
Point-of-care technologies, or POCTs, aim to take care of this problem. Patients can use barcode scanners for healthcare applications and gain access to a wide array of tests accessible to them. A blood glucose test is the most common parameter in POC testing, but several others are also available. These diagnostic devices can provide real-time results within minutes of patients giving their samples.
- Personalized medicines
Perhaps one of the most significant transformations in healthcare is the shift from generic medicine to more personalized or precision medication. Genetics, body type, lifestyle, and environment can impact a person’s susceptibility to a particular disease. And so, not everyone reacts to traditional treatments the same way. But thanks to extensive medical knowledge and modern technology, doctors can now offer individualized treatment for each patient.
Since personalized medicines specifically target a patient’s health concerns, they’re more effective in improving patient outcomes. It minimizes the risk of failed or unresponsive regimens and, therefore, saves millions of worth of resources from going to waste. More importantly, this takes on a more proactive approach than reactive and keeps patients from getting extremely ill in the first place.
- Electronic health records
With increased healthcare technology and new medical knowledge surfacing, patients are living to a longer age. However, greater life expectancy also gives rise to more chronic conditions, and with several investigative and therapeutic options available, patients have vast medical data files. Although the information in these files is critical, doctors don’t have the time to sift through them and look for the needed evidence.
Electronic health records (EHRs) in healthcare settings make these sources of information much more accessible to doctors and patients. They also facilitate multidisciplinary access to a team of healthcare workers and specialists of an organization. Using graphical tools, charts, and essential values—EHRs provide quick quality measures that help physicians make crucial and often life-threatening decisions. Additionally, filling out patient files takes much of a healthcare worker’s time. But automated systems reduce these manual tasks, making them more reliable and less prone to human error.
Nanotechnology is the field of science and engineering that deals with transforming or manipulating minute atoms and molecules smaller than 100 nanometers. Although relatively new, its use in the healthcare industry is already making significant changes for the better.
One of the greatest challenges in medicine is the patient’s inability to absorb entire doses of prescribed drugs. Due to patients receiving incomplete therapeutics, they’re unable to respond effectively to treatment and remain ill. But by using nanotechnology, medical engineers can transport drug molecules directly to their target cells and make them widely available to the body’s system. Besides improving treatment effectiveness, this also reduces the risk of rejection or adverse effects on the patient’s body.
The use of nanotechnology in healthcare is not just limited to therapeutics. Its application in diagnostics is also making headway in developing tests that can detect diseases like cancer in less invasive and harmful ways.
- 3-D Printing
3-D printing technology may seem like something out of a fictional novel. However, it’s very real and has a crucial role across several industries, including healthcare. Doctors and surgeons often use it to create replicas of a patient’s body part before they go in for surgery. An accurate model allows them to plan the surgery efficiently and forecast any problems they might encounter during the procedure. Additionally, 3-D printing enables the production of customized medical restorations for patients like prosthetic limbs, orthopedic implants, dental crowns, and cranial implants.
Traditional methods that build implants typically require individual parts to be manufactured separately and assembled elsewhere. In contrast, 3-D printing creates an entire product or device at once and in the same place. Besides saving time and resources, it also makes it possible to modify this equipment and make them better suitable for a particular patient’s anatomy.
- Genomic sequencing
In 2003, one of the biggest breakthroughs in research and medical sciences came from the Human Genome Project. After getting completed, it provided scientists and healthcare workers with the map of genes that makes up the blueprint of the human body. This information opened a new chapter in medicine, with physicians and researchers now better understanding how diseases occur and how to prevent them.
Studies show that the reason why some patients respond to the same treatment better than others may be due to their genetic variations. Mutations in your DNA can make you susceptible to some illnesses and perhaps resistant to others. Therefore, genomic sequencing allows doctors to build a map of their patient’s DNA to understand their disease and design targeted and more effective therapeutics. Even if you’re not sick, genomics can be instrumental in identifying conditions you’re at risk of acquiring. This way, you can take preemptive measures and prevent severe health concerns.
We live in a time of modern technology and revolutionary innovation across several industries, including healthcare. This technology has improved medical diagnosis and treatments and made health facilities accessible to a broader population. And while these advancements may come with challenges along the way, the promises they hold can achieve exponential growth in the healthcare sector.