What is the Role of Technology in Healthcare?
Healthcare is a sector where there is great scope for technological innovation. Due to its essential nature, the healthcare industry is only going to grow, and the demand for technological solutions to refine healthcare systems and processes is only going to expand. In addition, new and exciting developments in fields like communications, data analysis, biotechnology, blockchain etc., can help hospitals and doctors provide the best and most efficient solutions to patients.
In this article, we’ll be discussing some of the emerging trends related to the role of technology in healthcare.
Big Data Analysis
Due to the extensive increase in the need for medical facilities in recent days, integration of big data analysis in the healthcare industry has become very important.
Due to extensive increase in need of medical facilities in recent days, integration of big data analysis in the healthcare industry has become crucial. Some of its applications are:
Efficient hospital staffing: By studying the past and present admission rates, hospitals can estimate the future admission rates. Based on this, they can take decisions as to how many staff to hire and which facilities they should be assigned to.
Error-proof medication: Data analysis systems can flag any errors or inconsistencies in the treatments or medicines assigned to the patient by studying patients’ medical history. This will be a failsafe against mistakes made by the hospital staff.
Preventive care: Again, by analysing patients’ medical history, systems can detect the early symptoms of any medical conditions so doctors can treat them before they reach the serious stage.
Wearable Medical Devices
Wearable medical devices like pacemakers, fitness trackers etc., are a burgeoning part of the healthcare market, and they are expected to form a 27 billion USD market by 2023. Examples of wearable devices are heart rate trackers, calorie trackers, oximeters and fitness trackers. These devices provide medical information about the patient in real-time and can provide advance warning of major health issues.
Fitness trackers give the patient a sense of responsibility and give them control over their own health. Since they can directly see their activity level, they are encouraged to exercise more to reach some tangible goals. By adding rewards, alerts etc., these trackers “gamify” the fitness process and make it less of a chore for patients.
Virtual Reality Tech
Some doctors are using VR tech to provide relief to patients with chronic pain issues. Since pain is felt in the brain, distracting the brain with VR or other engaging tasks which require a high level of participation and interest from the patient can reduce their pain levels.
Another application of VR tech is in reducing the anxiety levels of patients who are about to undergo surgery. By distracting the patients through virtual reality, doctors can take their thoughts away from the impending surgery, thereby reducing stress and anxiety levels and improving mental health and wellness.
Apart from helping patients, VR tech can help doctors hone their own skills. For example, doctors can rehearse complicated surgeries in virtual reality and get a better, immersive understanding of the internal arrangement of the human body, including even the smallest organs.
Blockchain is a major milestone in the field of encryption technology and data security. Keeping the patients’ medical records secure and private is very important for healthcare facilities. This information must also be shared between hospitals when patients are transferred from one facility to another. Blockchain in the healthcare market is estimated to be worth almost 900 million dollars by 2023, showing that hospitals are starting to understand the value of this technology.
Vendors like BurstIQ and Medical chain are working to apply blockchain to the healthcare sector. They empower patients to have control over their medical records and are helping hospitals to store, organise and transmit patients’ medical information safely.
Telehealth and online medical consultations have come to the forefront of the healthcare sector due to the restrictions on in-person interactions imposed by the advent of the Covid-19. Even without the pandemic, telehealth comes as a boon to those patients living in remote or rural areas who can’t often travel to the doctor or patients with severe mobility issues (e.g. patients who use wheelchairs or patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases) who can’t easily leave their houses to visit the doctor.
Another use case is for patients suffering from contagious illnesses. Despite all the precautions that are taken, there is still the possibility of them spreading the disease. Again, telehealth can be used to treat these patients remotely.
Technology will definitely play an ever-increasing role in healthcare in this new digital age. From empowering people to ensure their fitness, protecting patients’ privacy and medical data, and helping hospitals make more efficient decisions vis a vis staffing and treatment, technological innovations can help doctors and patients in more ways than one.
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