In today’s world of HMOs and other inconveniently convenient healthcare options, many of us wonder what happened to the days where a doctor was truly “your” doctor and our healthcare needs were adequately met. Gone are the days where a doctor made house calls and knew your family by name, though the longing for this sort of medical treatment is obviously still in existence within our society. According to recent research conducted by a joint government-private study and reported by Bloomberg, more and more Americans are dissatisfied with their healthcare and believe it has grown significantly worse within the past 4 years.
What is the remedy for this? The medical industry is fighting to win back the trust of the public through a variety of advances. Improvements range from simple environmental changes to impressive implementations of new technology. Everything from impressively advanced medical equipment and electronic health care records (to avoid having to fill out a patient history form every 3 months) to more patient-centered care are being implemented to re-establish America’s faith in the medical field. Below are ten of the best examples of how technology is revolutionizing the health industry,and taking the steps necessary to return back closely as possible to the good old fashioned house call.
1. Medical Imaging. In the continual battle against devastating and varied diseases such as cancer, the Mayo Clinic and IBM have recently achieved success with the most advanced medical imaging available. Combining modern computer technology and memory bandwidth, they have manipulated the process of 3D medical imaging to develop up to 50 times faster than what was previously available. This advance in time greatly assists image registration, meaning the computer-enhanced alignment of layered “before and after” photos allow radiologists to more easily note changes such as the size of tumors and other health abnormalities. The new technology was presented jointly by the Mayo Clinic and IBM this past spring, leaving the big names in healthcare excited about the large leap in progress.
2. DUPLEX© Drug Delivery System. In hospitals where patients continually receive intravenous medication, the mixing of drugs with diluents inside of an IV bag has always been a difficult task. Thanks to the new technology designed by DUPLEX, staff time spent on the IV bags has been reduced, instances of Carpal Tunnel have been minimized, and the instances of safe drug administration have dramatically increased. The pre-filled, PVC-free, and latex-free bag already contains the correct doses of drugs and diluents in separate sections that are then mixed and released with a firm squeeze. Since there are no attachments, the risk of improper measurements and incorrect dose administration is no longer an issue. The bags also contain oxygen and moisture barrier technology advancements that preserve the drugs and help enhance their shelf life. This means expenditures are more controlled since the medications last longer and in turn, less waste to be dealt with.
3. Health Informatics. While it may seem a familiar and unimpressive concept to most Americans who have regularly visited a medical office within the past several years, Health Informatics, – the networking of medical records via computer, – is still fairly new technology that is growing and changing rapidly. Once a network only for doctors, informatics is now available to the patient and consumer as well. New drug information is available for viewing with a simple click of the mouse. Patients’ information can be transferred to an endless number of hospitals and medical facilities, eliminating the need to keep track of paperwork and insurance cards. Lastly, patients can now be emailed their test results, as well as other pertinent health information that is able to easily be posted online via their doctor’s personal website. The convenience of medical informatics is improving all over the world, and thankfully there are techies continually at work in terms of developing safe domains and a level of internet security where we will be able to continue having this great advancement in our lives.
4. Robotic Surgery. In 2003, robotic surgery was first used on a female cardiac patient. The results were successful and the robotic surgery structure has been used in many operating rooms ever since. This cutting edge medical technology includes a robotic arm that is able to mimic movements usually made by a surgeon. The movements of the robot are dictated across the room by a surgeon using virtual images retrieved by a laparoscopic camera. Having such an increased view of the body’s components combined with the reduced risk of doctor’s fatigue during particularly lengthy procedures, has helped to improve the quality of execution and recovery for the patient. Incisions are smaller and preciseness has increased, since visibility is improved and the surgeon is working with a more attuned “brain.”
5. Organ Donor Networking Organ donor lists have always seemed unending. The need for transplants in order for lives to be saved will always be there, however technology has helped to ease the difficulty of the process. Thanks to organizations such as the United Network For Organ Sharing, new technologies are being used for transplantation around the globe. UNet© is an Internet-based transplant database which is able to register patients in need of transplants remotely from any hospital at any time of the day. Since it is on a computer network, medical personnel are able to access the lists at any time. The database also accelerates the labs’ ability to match tissues and organs effectively, meaning more transplants are given and less organs go to waste. Lives are increasingly being saved thanks to the UNet© technology, and more programs are being developed to help increase the technology’s contribution toward preserving life.
6. Neonatal Hug n Snug. With a name as adorable as the tiny patients it was designed for, this recent Penn State patent was developed to assist premature infants with difficult breathing. Designed by neonatologist Charles Palmer, MB., Ch.B., it is adhered to the chest of a baby experiencing respiratory issues. Since it is non-invasive, it reduces the health risks premature children already face, and can also be used on fragile full term newborns that need a little help with their lungs. The splint design gives “external stabilization” to those who are experiencing an inward collapse of their soft chest area, and this in turn allows baby to breathe easy.
7. At Home Allergy Tests. The Europeans are too impatient to wait for a doctor’s appointment in their crowded system of socialized medicine, and instead are taking advantage of technology coming out of the healthcare industry to design at home tests and products. This trend has also taken flight in the U.S., with companies such as Biomerica, Inc. designing health items such as a 15 minute home test for pet allergies. Just recently authorized to be sold over the counter both stateside and overseas, this allergy test will allow a person to take their own drop of blood and receive test results that, within 15 minutes will decide if the family’s new kitten should stay or go. This is only one of an array of stay-at-home technologies quickly becoming available to consumers.
8. DropArray Substance Testing. A new technology developed by Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology is expected to decrease the high cost of medications many individuals are forced to pay in order to sustain their life. Expected to replace a standard lab tool that is used to measure and perform tests on medical substances, DropArray is smaller, faster, and cheaper for scientists to use. It also will increase productivity time, reducing lab test durations by 60%. If sold internationally, this improved testing tec hnology can tremendously reduce the cost of medication and new findings for the middle and lower class consumer.
9. Cell Phone Medical Transmission. For those suffering from a recurring illness, convenient help is on the way! A recent Canadian report announced that patients may be able to soon monitor their vitals and transmit the information to their doctor via cell phone. Sound crazy? Not with today’s technology, including this handheld device that has been developed by the University of Alberta. Using an advanced sensing technology that allows patients to wirelessly provide information to their medical office, it is expected to be eventually built into select models of cell phones, just as we enjoy photography and videos on them today. If the technology is able to be taught to senior citizens, it can be tremendously beneficial and timely to those of us who are most fragile and suffering from terminal or chronic ailments.
10. Schizophrenia Simulation. Advancements in healthcare technology are beneficial not only physically, but to the mentally ill as well. Thanks to an advanced innovation by Janssen Pharmaceutica, a company otherwise known for making an effective drug treatment for schizophrenics, healthy individuals are able to experience what life is like for the mentally ill. The simulation involves goggles and headphones which allow a non-schizophrenic to gain a new perspective on what the illness feels like. This is especially helpful for law enforcement and psychiatric workers who can develop deeper empathy for those suffering with the disease, and in turn know better how to respond and treat them. Technologies such as this simulator will help to remove stigmas against the severely mentally ill, while improving their level quality treatment received.
Technology is revolutionizing the health industry in countless ways, and with the continued developments and patient-centered, comfort-first care, our healthcare professionals will continue to improve the great medical care that we already receive.