By: Toby Nwazor
Several leaps have been made in our health care industry over the last two decades and technology is considered to be the driving force behind most of these improvements.
A careful examination will reveal how different digital innovations is ushering in an era of democratization of medical care in which patients have more control over their health care. The enormous growth of our communication technology has also made it easier to combat the kind of epidemic situation that seems insurmountable few centuries ago.
Below is a compilation of six different Ways technological advancement is changing the face of 21st Century medical practices.
1. Robotic surgery and Robotic Checkups
Surgical robotics is one of the new technological advancements that are revolutionizing health care. For instance, laparoscopic surgery is turning major surgeries that usually leave scars and keep patients in the hospital for several days into fairly minor procedures.
A recent study by surgeons at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington showed that a supervised autonomous robot could perform soft-tissue surgery better than a human surgeon. This is a big leap on how technology is enhancing health care in 21st century.
Robotic check-Ups is another area of technological advancement in health care. According to a report by Michael MacRae, we now have FDA approved robots with the capacity to patrol hospital hallways, checking on patients in different rooms and also manage patient’s individual charts and vital signs without human contact.
The robot is basically a mobile cart device with a two-way video screen with medical monitoring equipment. It was intelligently programmed in such a way that it could maneuver itself through a busy hospital hall.
2. Technology for Fighting Addiction
Technology is also changing how we treat addiction of different kinds. Technology Assisted Care (TAC) involves the use of technology devices to deliver some aspects of psychotherapy or behavioral treatment directly to patients via interaction with a web-based program.
A number of technology based interventions are proving to be very effective in treating substance use disorders (SUD). An example is Therapeutic Education System (TES), an interactive, web-based psychosocial intervention for SUDs. Another example is “Project Quit“, a web-based smoking cessation program. Many addiction treatment centers all across US are leveraging these technology based addiction treatment modalities to achieve more effective results.
The technology based system simply replicates a therapy program that is already known to work when delivered by a human and they do so with consistency and at a time and place convenient to the patient.
3. The Age of Patient-Centered Care (PCC)
One of the main conclusions of a review study conducted by researchers from John Hopkins University few years ago is that combining patient-centered care principles with health information technology improves overall health care outcome significantly.
The study which was published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in 2012 reviewed over 300 published articles between 1998 and 2010. Ever since, many other studies have reiterated the significant role advancement in technology is playing in enhancing patient-centered care.
An article published by Dr. Lawrence Rosen in 2013 identified 3 distinct ways IT is improving PCC. One of these is the development of patient portal which now makes it possible for patients to update their health and demographic information, request appointments and prescriptions, receive test results, and communicate via secure messaging.
Such technology has not only increased the efficiency of doctor-patient communication, it’s enabling doctors to spend more quality time with their patients. According to Dr. Jon Ward, a dermatology specialist in Florida, many specialists’ hospitals are now designing their whole operation around this concept of PCC.
4. Ingestible Sensors and Smart Pills
The development of Neuro-stimulation system for addressing chronic cluster headache and Ingestion monitoring systems are some of the ways technology is revolutionizing health care.
Doctors have linked most forms of chronic cluster headache to the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG), a nerve bundle located behind the nose. Until now, there is yet to be a long term treatment that works on the SPG. The new technology which involves the stimulation of the SPG offers a reversible and adjustable option to control the debilitating pain of cluster headache.
The technology which is under clinical investigation was developed by Autonomic Technologies, Inc (ATI). The ATI Neuro-stimulation system is a patient-powered tool for blocking SPG signals at the first sign of a headache.
There are two components of the system. The permanent implant of a small nerve stimulating device called ATI Neurostimulator, and the handheld remote controller. The whole system works by delivering low-level energy directly to the area of the SPG.
Aside the electronic drug like Neuro-stimulator and Ingestion monitoring systems, the development of Cognitive Enhancement Drugs is also becoming a trend that could shape history and herald a 21st century of neuroscience.
By leveraging both innovative technologies and predictive knowledge, scientists are developing smarter ways to create the kind of drugs that seems impossible 20 years ago. According to a recent article by JonHa Revesencio on HuffingtonPost, smart drugs, like Noopept and Adrafinil, are the secrets behind a lot of the World’s Tech Billionaires.
Although these drugs don’t fundamentally make people smart, they mainly enhance users’s focus, memory, motivation, attention, mental clarity, and problem solving abilities. How much impact these type of drugs have on healthcare and lifestyle are still subject of debate in the academic realm.
5. Technology for Combating Epidemics
Technology is playing a key role in combating outbreak of infectious diseases. One glaring example is the recent Ebola pandemic. During the outbreak, technological tools were harnessed for early diagnosis, early warning communication and messaging, training, real time monitoring, and epidemiological surveillance.
The use of technological tool such as Touch-free infra red thermometer and a virus-killing robot also help prevent the spread of the virus in the United States. This type of technology helped enhance real-time data sharing and collaboration between scientists across different fields. It is also interesting to note that infrared thermometers are now becoming invaluable tools for home use as well.
6. Adoption of Laser Technologies
The word LASER stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. The adoption of laser technologies for medical treatment is one of the new ways technological advancement is changing health care system.
A review article by scientist from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston laid out different laser platforms available for medical treatment and how to identify the most appropriate laser for specific issues. Laser technology is now applicable for treating a range of medical issues from cancer treatment to hair removal and toenail fungus.
Technology is revolutionizing the health care industry in very unique ways. The technology is driving healthcare ahead in a way that could deliver great dividends to healthcare providers and consumers.