In 2001 a team of French and Canadian surgeons operating out of New York City utilized an advanced three-armed robot called Zeus coupled with state-of-the-art highspeed communication technologies to perform the world’s first successful remote surgery on a patient based in Strasbourg, France.
This was a historic achievement that changed the way mankind looked at the relationship between connectivity and medicine.
Even though the project was canceled later on it set the tone for an ever-evolving merger between healthcare and technology.
THE ERA OF VIRTUAL CARE
Fast-forward the next two decades to the COVID-19 pandemic and you realize just how deeply highspeed communications technology has impacted modern healthcare.
From telemedicine to online consultations with physicians to digital healthcare platforms helping patients find doctors near them, information technology has almost become an essential prerequisite for the provision of quality healthcare.
In short, technology is all set to write the next chapter in the history of healthcare. Because IT has become a juggernaut that will not be running out of steam any time soon.
For reference, when the aforementioned remote operation took place even the most advanced cable internet provided download speeds of merely 40 Mbps. Today, internet service providers like Smithville internet are beaming highspeed fiber internet with download speeds of up to 1 GB into American homes. Helps you gauge the potential, right?
It’s almost scary to envisage what the future will behold. But for now, let’s stick to today and look at how advancements in computing and internet technologies are redefining modern healthcare.
PROVISION OF HEALTHCARE TO REMOTE AREAS
Ensuring that Americans residing in far-flung remote areas have equal access to quality healthcare has been a talking point of almost every U.S. presidential candidate for at least the last half a century.
But it’s almost impossible to dispatch medical specialists, of all shapes and stripes, to each and every corner of the continental United States. The country is too big for that. Well, now we don’t have to anymore.
With the increasing permeation of high-speed broadband, the need to rush to a physician for an urgent medical consultation is a thing of the past. Patients can now hold video conferences with physicians and access quality healthcare advice on the go.
REMOTE PATIENT MONITORING
In addition to healthcare appointments video-communications technology has enabled doctors to remotely monitor their patients.
And by monitoring I don’t mean merely staring at them through a screen, though that is an important part of the process, to also closely observe other vital medical information through a vast array of sensors.
As a result, physicians are now able to make timely and sometimes even lifesaving interventions while being hundreds of miles away from their patients.
And obviously, there are remote surgical interventions. Like the one, we started our discussion with. Highly advanced robotic arms controlled via almost zero lag internet have made almost sci-fi(ish) procedures possible.
Even the U.S. federal government, which is always slow to catch up, has realized the importance of technology in trying to provide healthcare to all. Federal government grants and programs like the FCC’s connect2health are prime examples of this interest.
REAL-TIME INFORMATION SHARING
I hope that you did not go through a COVID scare. But for those of us who did, we remember the anxiety of waiting in line before healthcare could test us for this novel disease.
ONLINE PATIENT PORTALS
Regardless of how scary getting the actual COVID-19 test was the test results were fairly easier to get. No calls to the hospital, no hassle of finding a good parking spot outside the hospital, and most importantly no waiting in lines. The results were uploaded to an online portal and all I had to do was get a printout and I was done.
ONLINE PATIENT RECORDS & MEDICAL HISTORIES
The principle is not limited to COVID-19 tests alone. Almost all hospitals in the U.S. now manage patient records online.
Not only can patients now access their records in a matter of minutes, but physicians can also share thousands of pages worth of patients’ medical histories with their colleagues with the click of a button. And any physician can vouch for the importance of real-time information sharing when it comes to making effective diagnoses.
PERSONAL HEALTHCARE TECHNOLOGIES AND PLATFORMS
Another more recent and groundbreaking trend is the percolation of personal healthcare technologies and platforms. In many cases, patients do not even need to consult with doctors for minute health-related concerns.
DIGITAL HEALTHCARE PLATFORMS
Platforms like Mayo Clinic and even Britain’s National Health Service’s website (NHS) offer clear-cut and expert medical guidelines on everything ranging from obesity to drug abuse. Leading to an uptick in mass medical literacy and reducing the burden ON health care services.
DIGITAL DOCTORS’ APPOINTMENTS
Similarly, applications like Zocdoc, readily available on the app store, have made it much easier for patients to be able to research and look up doctors who best suit their medical needs. You can also compare the competency of different professionals and get reviews on their performance. Because of apps like Zocdoc finding a doctor is almost as easy as calling an Uber.
THE DOCTOR ON YOUR WRIST
And yes, while we are talking about personal healthcare technologies who can forget the smartwatch on your wrist which tracks everything from the number of steps you need to walk in a day to your blood pressure and heartbeat.
And this information can easily be transferred to medical professionals in case of emergencies giving them a better overall picture of your health so that they can respond more effectively.
Even though most take these technologies for granted if you were to tell a person from just 10 years ago that your watch can track your blood sugar in real time they would have called you crazy.
The high-speed connectivity offered to us by modern technology has revolutionized healthcare. Anyone with an internet connection can now access physicians’ miles away and physicians can do the same with their patients.
And we may be even closer to the Prometheus-like AI-powered medical pods than most of us think.
In short, the internet in addition to providing a continuous stream of fresh cat videos is also helping make our lives longer and healthier.
So, don’t forget to thank the tech overlords before going to sleep tonight.