Technology has changed our society. The way we do almost everything has turned upside down over the last twenty years or so. Many things that were believed to be relegated to the realm of science fiction are now science fact, and this is arguably truer in medicine than in any other field. From virtual doctor’s visits to robots conducting surgery, this is definitely not the world our parents grew up in.
This article explores four ways in which tech has changed healthcare so we all can all live more convenient, healthier lives.
Telemedicine was already making great strides prior to the COVID-19 epidemic, but the pandemic turned this tech from doable to “do it NOW.” Telemedicine gives patients and their healthcare professionals a way to meet over the computer for doctors’ visits, consultations, and even eye exams. An optometrist can actually perform vision tests over the computer and send the patient a prescription, all without ever physically meeting the patient.
In many rural places in the United States, doctors are very few and far between, and because of that, patients with potentially life-threatening conditions may never get the care they need. In addition, roughly 25% of patients do not see doctors when they should due to skyrocketing health care costs. This has changed with telemedicine. Patients can take pictures of trouble areas and download them for medical professionals to examine. The physician can then evaluate the pictures and determine whether the patient may need an in-office visit. This, allows patients access to healthcare that they may never have gotten at all, saves patients travel time, and is also considerably less expensive than being seen in-person.
Mental health counselors and patients are also taking advantage of telemedicine. The COVID-19 pandemic left many addicts who were dependent on group counseling to “go at it” alone, setting them at high risk for relapse. Thanks to telemedicine, however, high-risk patients could still visit their counselors and meet with their support groups, all from the comfort of home.
Health Tech Wearables
Heath fitness wearables like the Fitbit and Apple Watch have been out for several years now. They allow individuals to monitor their heart rate, steps taken, and even time slept so they can take charge of their fitness routines and become healthier. They even have a GPS built right in and don’t need a Bluetooth device to function correctly.
5G technology, however, is turning the world of wearables upside down. 5G allows patients and their wearable devices to upload health information to their physicians in real-time with no delay. This will allow doctors to diagnose and treat patients with life-threatening conditions with split-second accuracy. In addition, with 5G technology, patients have up-to-the-second information and are no longer dependent upon their smartphones to use their health tech devices.
Health tech wearables are also helping patients manage chronic conditions, giving them more control. Diabetics no longer have to prick their fingers many times a day. Instead, they can wear a device that, with their smartphones, allows them to check their blood sugar levels whenever they want. There are also devices that monitor heart disease, glaucoma, and COPD among other chronic conditions. These gadgets alert both the patient and the doctor when things may be starting to go awry so action can be taken before serious complications develop.
In addition to 5G making health care more accessible and affordable, it is also helping in the realm of surgery. Robots who perform or assist in surgery have become commonplace during the last few years.
Not long ago, robots could not be used in remote locations because they couldn’t get a clear signal back to their place of origin, and if they could, it would be severely lagging. With the advent of 5G technology, however, doctors, with the assistance of these robots, can perform surgeries in these faraway locations in real-time. No longer do doctors have to worry, and it saves patients money as well as a long trip to the hospital.
Unlike the up-and-coming world of robotics, data mining in healthcare has been done for years. It involves examining large amounts of data, in this case, patient data, to determine trends and patterns so diseases and conditions can be better understood and dealt with. Using high tech, research that would have taken months can be done in the blink of an eye.
One way that data mining is being used is to determine possible interactions between drugs. With this information, doctors can better determine whether certain drugs are right for particular individuals, and what steps need to be taken prior to a drug being prescribed to prevent possible interactions before they happen.
It is also very frustrating for both doctors and patients alike when a patient comes in with ailments that cannot be easily diagnosed. Data mining, when used with patients and their symptoms, can more accurately specify a specialist who may better diagnose a patients’ ailments. This cuts down on the frustration of both patients and their physician and leads to more successful treatment of the condition itself.
Data mining, health tech wearables, robotics, and telemedicine are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to today’s technology affecting the medical field. It will be interesting to see how technology continues to affect healthcare in the future.