Technology is changing all aspects of modern life. From the way that it can obliterate inefficiencies within organizations to the potential that it holds to connect people from all different walks of life, tech is changing everything. The health care industry is no exception: not only is it turning around the clinical side of health care, but it’s also reforming the administrative side.
Data collection, for example, is now easier and more secure than ever thanks to advances in health informatics. Physicians are finding that technology has produced some of the most potent and targeted medicines, treatments and health care solutions in living memory. This article will look in detail at both of these areas, and will explain why the health care industry is likely to continue to be a major beneficiary in the tech space in the decades to come.
Improvements in treatment
For those on either the front line of the health care industry or indeed those who are receiving treatment, the most obvious way that tech is transforming the system is through better treatment. This happens in two distinct ways. First of all, technology is creating better medicines. There’s evidence to show that machine learning has improved outcomes for patients with Parkinson’s disease, for example. Researchers at Michigan State University found that artificial intelligence significantly sped up the production of Parkinson’s drugs – which combats the precise problem of sluggish drug development.
The other major way that treatment is getting improved as a result of technology is through the use of technologically advanced tools that patients use, rather than medications they consume. In some ways, of course, the term “technology” has to be seen as relative. Treatment types that are currently seen as rudimentary, such as walking sticks or inhalers, were once seen as cutting-edge technologies! However, the modern age has seen an explosion in new technologies designed to help patients. Wearable technology, for example, is able to monitor everything from pulse rates to exercise levels and then feed this information back to clinicians and allow them to work out where a patient might be going wrong. Technology has even meant that life-saving artificial organs can be given to people whose own organs have failed them: it’s possible to get everything from an artificial heart to a fake lung thanks to advances in medical research.
As is often the case in complex organizations such as health care institutions, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes as well as out on the front lines – and this behind-the-scenes work is often crucial. In the case of hospitals, clinics and medical research establishments, technological improvements to data collection as well as the introduction of health informatics is a more low-key way that technology is changing the health sector.
Data collection is essential in a hospital environment. Physicians need to keep accurate notes of what symptoms patients report, for example, otherwise a precise diagnosis may not be possible. Nurses, meanwhile, must always ensure that they write down the correct dosages given to patients. However, all too often, failure occurs at some stage in the process. Thanks to technology, though, it’s now possible to make this data as accurate as possible. Automated systems can flag gaps in notes, while alerts can be used to remind front-line staff of who needs to be treated and when.
As the evidence of researchers including Sudir Raju has shown, using this kind of data for both individual patient benefits and for the wider public good is also possible. Once all of this data has been collected from individual patients, it can then be anonymized so that no individuals can be identified – and then aggregated. Analysis software can then identify patterns – and these can be converted into actionable insights. If patients on one ward are taking longer to get better than others, for example, then managers know where to focus their investigative energies. More broadly, this kind of health informatics is able to look into why certain groups within populations as a whole develop particular health problems, and then devise solutions.
With technology everywhere around you in the modern world, it’s easy to forget just what a profound impact it can have on those who need it the most. For people who require health care solutions that are innovative, fast-moving and effective, tech is a lifesaver. From artificial organs to wearable technologies, treatments have been revolutionized as a result of tech’s advances. While innovations in health care informatics might not be quite so glamorous or indeed as emotive as technological advances in treatment might be, there are also clear patient outcome benefits to this sort of transformation. Technology, then, has truly changed the face of modern health care – for the better.