Technology advancements spanning the digital space to manufacturing techniques have impacted every area of our daily lives. One of the areas in which technology has made critical, life-saving impacts on healthcare.
Rapid advancements in information and communications technology, new manufacturing techniques, and new software tools have brought about new treatments and cures as well as better diagnosis and treatment.
These technological innovations have also driven improvements in patient monitoring, data sharing, and even research. With this in mind, what are some of the most significant ways technology has been enhancing healthcare?
And how have these upgrades and improvements changed things for both patients and healthcare providers in the delivery of healthcare? Here’s what you need to know.
- Accessibility empowering patients
One of the most conspicuous ways technology has changed healthcare and its delivery is enhancing accessibility. At a basic level, the internet has made it possible for people to research potential symptoms, conditions, and diseases online.
While this could be a potential negative for patients relying on dubious informational sources, it could empower others to seek out the right type of healthcare from a professional and make informed decisions about their treatment if they use trustworthy websites.
Not only is it now easy for anyone to do research on possible symptoms online; technology tools like computers and smartphones have enabled telehealth. Telehealth makes healthcare, such as two-way consultations with a doctor, more accessible to the less mobile and to those based in rural or remote areas.
It allows patients to self-manage their condition with monitoring tools, with the support of a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare providers, without having to travel to a clinic in person. On the provider side, it could enable cheaper healthcare delivery, greater capacity to serve more patients and better quality of care through ongoing monitoring and guidance.
- Personalized healthcare
Technology advancements are setting the foundation for highly personalized healthcare. For example, 3D printing enables custom dental implants and limbs, and it may be used to print custom drugs and organs in the future.
Similarly, detailed electronic health records can also facilitate personalized healthcare by simplifying the recording and sharing of data across different healthcare providers. In the future, the quality and quantity of this information for individual patients could significantly increase as healthcare providers start using genomics data to enhance personalization — for improved diagnosis, treatment, and management of conditions.
- Electronic health records enabling coordination
Technology tools like electronic health records (EHRs) have revolutionized healthcare, allowing providers to deliver better quality care. Patients’ records are stored in legible, digital formats that are easy to share and read, in contrast to the handwritten paper records of the past. Inputting patient records, submitting insurance and Medicare claims, and sharing records across the patient’s different providers are now streamlined processes.
EHRs can also offer helpful features like automatic alerts to doctors on issues like allergies. They simplify workflows for health workers like nurses and administrative staff who might be responsible for updating, maintaining, and tracking patient data.
For example, with EHRs, it’s easier than ever before to check the correct treatment is being administered, share lab test results, and order the correct medications. Finally, EHRs can improve accuracy and minimize human errors for patient data, which contributes to a more integrated higher quality healthcare service.
- Big data enabling large-scale analysis
EHRs and big data enable clinical researchers to draw on large-scale data sets and analyses for developing new treatments and drugs. In some cases, this can be a time-critical issue for sick populations.
For example, with viral outbreaks, big data can give these researchers the latest insights into the scale of the outbreak, how it’s spreading, and how to contain it in the most effective way.
Big data doesn’t only support cost-effective research by allowing pooling and sharing of data; it could help lower healthcare costs, detect and prevent epidemics, improve healthcare standards, and eliminating healthcare waste.
- Telehealth and remote monitoring
In fact, two in three seniors are more likely to require healthcare at some point and believe that technology will change the doctor’s surgery as we know it. What if the doctor’s surgery were to become your own home?
With the internet, personal computers, and smartphones, doctors can consult with patients without either needing to travel physically. Video conferencing, telemonitoring, and other technologies allow healthcare providers to diagnose, manage, counsel, educate, and support patients.
Those who are less mobile or located in remote areas can access better care, and doctors can lower their service costs.
Technology is an enabler of new healthcare possibilities
Technology like smartphones and computers can bring convenience and novelty to our daily lives, but when it comes to healthcare, these devices, and other tech solutions can improve patient outcomes and even save lives.
For both patients and providers, technology can enhance existing solutions, whether it’s making it easier for patients to consult with their doctors, sharing patient data, or streamlining workflows for healthcare workers.
However, technology has also brought in completely new ways of doing things. For example, 3D printing and taking genetic background into account make highly personalized treatments possible.
As such, technological advancements have undoubtedly benefited healthcare with incredible innovations and significant improvements in delivery, and this is likely to continue in the coming years.