Healthcare Technology Featured Article

November 04, 2019

Evolving Technology: Transforming a Decades-Old Approach to Healthcare

The healthcare industry is always simmering with innovation and new ideas, but it’s typically taken years – or even decades – for significant change to occur on a large scale. But over the last 18 to 24 months, it’s like gasoline has been poured over hot coals. Transformation is happening at an astonishing pace, redefining everything we know.

5 Powerful Technologies and Trends Transforming Healthcare

“Medicine is remarkably conservative to the point of being properly characterized as sclerotic, even ossified,” cardiologist, geneticist, and digital medicine researcher Eric Topol wrote back in 2013. “Beyond the reluctance and resistance of physicians to change, the life science industry (companies that develop and commercialize drugs, devices or diagnostic tests) and government regulatory agencies are in a near-paralyzed state, unable to break out of a broken model determining how their products are developed or commercially approved. But that is about to change. Medicine is about to go through its biggest shakeup in history.”

Topol was 100 percent correct. The healthcare industry has been turned upside down over the last six or seven years. And when you look at it from an innovation standpoint, the shakeup has been overwhelmingly positive. Moving forward, it’s only logical to expect more change. Here are some of the powerful technologies and trends leading this charge:

1. Video Recording

At the heart of healthcare innovation are research labs and centers where rigorous medical and pharmaceutical research is conducted around the clock. And one of the keys to successful healthcare research is proper observation and accountability. Video is playing an increasingly vital role in this process.

“Digital video is used to record healthcare research lab sessions because it offers a high-tech approach to document and catalog the session’s activity,” Intelligent Video Solutions explains. “Recording medical and pharmaceutical research labs with video provides more accurate data analysis and can greatly expand the amount of data collected. In addition, video recording behavioral research can lead to more accurate diagnoses and understanding of various conditions.”

Video recording is especially helpful in studying anxiety disorders, disruptive behavior disorders, emotional behavior disorders, and pervasive developmental disorders (such as autism and Asperger’s syndrome).

2. Simulations

No amount of classroom training can prepare a student for actual work in a real life healthcare setting, but advances in simulation technology are closing the gap quicker than we ever imagined possible.

Simulation training is the imitation or representation of real-world acts or systems and serves as a bridge between the classroom learning that students receive in formal education and the real-life clinical experience they need once they enter into the profession. Patient simulators – which are essentially “smart” mannequins – are especially popular in medical school.

“Today’s patient simulators are significantly more advanced. Most of them can blink, breathe, cry, sweat, and have a heartbeat and pulse,” Stephen Burrows writes for Healthcare IT News. “When hooked up to monitors, they can even display vital signs. With some customization by the faculty the ‘patient’ can exhibit any number of cardiac arrhythmias.”

Leading simulators mimic bodily functions and can respond to treatment to provide the trainee with immediate feedback. And while there are certainly flaws within these systems, they bolster confidence and give inexperienced professionals valuable tools.

3. Telemedicine

Telemedicine – e.g. the practice of providing remote medical care to patients – is one of the more exciting trends in the industry. While once reserved for geographically remote areas where there was a lack of medical professionals, virtual medicine is now being used throughout the world.

Telemedicine is embraced by physicians and patients alike. It’s more cost-effective, time-efficient, and accessible. And though it’s been around for more than a decade, we’re now seeing some profoundly positive changes that are expected to transform telemedicine and take it to the next level. Trends and developments include:

  • We’ll discuss this more in the following section, but the growth of sensor technology and wearable trackers has allowed telemedicine to expand services. Doctors can now monitor heart rate, blood pressure, and other important vitals totally remotely.
  • Advances in data security make it possible for telemedicine providers to safely store patient data and more robust patient records. This improves quality of care and ensures nothing slips through the cracks.
  • An increasing number of healthcare providers are releasing their own mobile apps and systems, which allow patients to connect with them in one streamlined platform. This leads to a more comfortable patient-physician experience.

As mobile device and cloud technology improves, telemedicine will continue to iterate and innovate. Out of all the trends highlighted in this article, this is the one that promises the most patient-side benefits.

4. Wearable Trackers

As mentioned, sensor technology is improving and this has led to serious improvements in the capabilities of wearable trackers.

As people become more comfortable with wearable technology – such as smart watches and fitness trackers – the expectation is that healthcare bands and other doctor-prescribed sensors will take center stage. These digital devices, which measure fitness and vital signs, send data to healthcare providers and signal when something is wrong. They’re also used by health insurance companies to offer premium discounts and other perks.

The biggest concern with wearable trackers is the amount of personal data they produce. Discerning patients are hesitant to put all of their information out there without reassurance that it’s properly safeguarded. But with advances in data encryption, this is becoming less of an issue. Once consumers gain more trust in data security, the adoption rate of wearable trackers will skyrocket.

5. Electronic Health Records

“Today, the healthcare industry is facing the perfect storm: policy mandates with related timelines for implementation and a pressing demand to find a way to unlock the wealth of data that exists in clinical documentation,” CareCloud explains. “These positive pressures combined with the rapid pace of adoption of a more digital approach to care – for patients and providers alike – has created an opportunity for us all to rethink how to approach patient care and, in turn, capture and utilize clinical data.”

Out of this demand for better digitization and accessibility, electronic health records (EHR) systems have evolved from rudimentary software programs to transformative cloud platforms that revolutionize the way healthcare providers and patients interact. Data is now easily accessible by all providers and there’s less risk for errors, oversights, and confusion.

Once again, the only limiting factor is data security. But as data security improves – and it already has in the past few months – EHR technology will continue to become the gold standard in the industry.

A Healthier Future Awaits

Many people are shocked to learn that the U.S. healthcare system lags far behind dozens of other countries around the globe – many of which are far smaller and have significantly fewer resources. In fact, one ranking places the United States at 37th in the world, which lags behind countries like Costa Rica, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Iceland. While this ranking is suppressed by numerous factors, health officials are hopeful that recent improvements and advances in technology will close the gap and enhance the overall quality of care both at home and abroad.

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