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How Technology Is Changing The Future of Healthcare

Update Date: Jan 06, 2020 07:25 PM EST
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How Technology Is Changing The Future of Healthcare
(Photo : Flickr)

As we enter a new decade, there's a lot of technology changing the way we live our lives. Sure, we're not quite to the way the Jetsons live with flying cars, but the healthcare industry is one that is full of innovation. Cloud technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning are changing the way healthcare facilities operate on a day-to-day basis, improving patient outcomes, and more.

In the early days of medicine, things like anesthetic and antibiotics were major innovations that changed the face of healthcare as we know it. Technology will continue to grow and force the healthcare industry to adapt and evolve as a result. Here's what we can expect to see in the not-so-distant future...and what we're already starting to see.

CBD Research and Applications

In 2018, the federal government lifted restrictions making it possible to grow hemp and research its potential in medicine and other applications. The FDA has approved a drug, Epioldex, for the treatment of certain seizure disorders.

CBD oil contains 0.3% or less THC, so there's no worry about the stoned feeling associated with marijuana. Early research suggests CBD oil can help with a number of health conditions such as heart health, diabetes, pain relief, anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders, acne, and more. There's even anti-aging CBD cream

Telemedicine

Thanks to the internet you no longer have to physically go to your doctor's office if you're dealing with a minor ailment. You can connect with a doctor (sometimes, your own local family doctor) online via video chat, get a diagnosis and a prescription sent to your local pharmacy. 

All of this happens at a fraction of the cost of a traditional doctor visit - and in the case where insurance isn't filed, it is often less than an office visit copay. This is particularly helpful for patients who do not have insurance.

But, beyond visiting the doctor when you're sick, you can also schedule visits with other types of doctors and medical professionals, too. It's possible to meet with your mental health therapist, as well as speech therapists all from the comfort of your own home. It's nice for people who don't drive due to a health condition, or who live too far away from the physical practice location.

Telemedicine has been around for years already but is just now starting to become more mainstream. Platform options include TelADoc, Live Health Online, MDLive, Doctor on Demand, Dr. Says, AmWell, and HeyDoctor.

Telemedicine visits are not suitable for those looking to refill a controlled substance, medical emergencies, or critical injuries.

Intelligent Interoperability

Interoperability aims to enable IT elements in devices, infrastructure, vehicles, and applications to communicate with one another across the system when they need to. This communication can take place regardless of where and when that part of the system was built and used.

Consider all the data that's collected and shared across the healthcare sector, just for a single patient. Now, amplify that for millions of people, and throw in some extra to compensate for the medically complex patients who are shuffled from one specialist to the next. Working to achieve intelligent interoperability ensures the data is in the hands of those who need it when they need it. It also ensures that information is current, and updated in real-time.

While data exchange has been possible in healthcare before now, the processes are often long, cumbersome, expensive, and full of error potential. Intelligent interoperability allows the healthcare industry to save money, improve efficiency, and ultimately provide better patient care.

"Smart" Tattoos

Though these are still in the research and development stage, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard have developed a smart tattoo ink that can change color as an indicator of health. The color change can occur when an athlete is dehydrated, someone has been in the sun too long, or when a diabetic's blood sugar gets too high. 

Current wearable monitoring devices do not seamlessly integrate with the body. There's the need for wireless connectivity and a short battery life that makes it difficult. The color-based bio sensitive tattoo ink works to circumvent these issues. The ultimate goal is to sell these temporary tattoos in packs, much the same way you see nicotine patches used as part of smoking cessation efforts.

Robotic Surgery

Robotic surgery, also known as robot-assisted surgery, enables doctors to perform a variety of complex procedures with better flexibility, control than it's possible to achieve with standard or conventional techniques. Robotic surgery with the da Vinci Surgery System became FDA approved in 2000. After FDA approval, hospitals across the United States and Europe began to use it to treat a variety of conditions. 

Most commonly, the clinical robotic surgery system features a camera arm and mechanical arms that have surgical instruments attached. The surgeon takes control of the arms while seated at a nearby computer console. Using the console, the surgeon can get a magnified, high-definition, 3D view of the surgical site. This allows delicate and complex procedures that may not have otherwise been possible.

Robotic surgeries include:

  • Gynecologic surgeries such as hysterectomies and tubal ligations

  • Prostate surgeries

  • Kidney surgeries

  • Gallbladder surgeries

  • Cardiac surgeries

  • Urlogic surgeries

  • Pediatric surgeries

  • General surgeries

In many situations, using robotic surgery keeps the procedure minimally invasive. This results in fewer complications, quicker recovery, reduced pain and blood loss, smaller and less noticeable scars. 

That said, just like any surgery, there are risks associated with robotic surgery, some of which are similar to conventional open surgery, including complications and risk of infection. For this reason, robotic surgery is not an option for all surgical procedures, or for all patients.

Even though the technology has been available for use for 20 years now, as robotic technology continues to grow and expand, we can expect its capabilities in the healthcare industry to do the same.

With technology, we can get faster patient care with better quality outcomes, to improve overall health of everyone - even those with chronic health conditions.

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