The Impact of Technological Advancements on Healthcare

Main Question

  • How has technological advancement impacted the field of medicine?

Research Questions

  • How has technology changed patient care?
  • How has data storage and accessibility transformed with advances in technology?
  • How has technology advanced information and communication technology?
  • How has technology improved disease control?

Recently, claims by a Chinese researcher about creating the world’s first genetically-edited babies made headlines worldwide. According to The Telegraph News, the scientist said he used a superior tool to alter embryos of twin girls to make them resistant to HIV. Although the claims have sparked great ethical concerns, such advances epitomize the advancement of science and technology. Technology has impacted every facet of life. Its advancement has made enormous transformations in industries, including transportation, education, product development, and medicine. In the turn of the 19th century, the medical community recognized the need for improved medical practices. Technological advancements have since then played a crucial role in biotechnology, the development of modern medical equipment, information technology, and biotechnology. These technological advances in healthcare have changed patient care, data storage and accessibility, information technology, and disease control.

As the medical community increasingly embraces technology, patient care is undergoing tremendous change. Before, healthcare professionals relied on paper charts for patients’ records. Today, approximately 90% of health professionals utilize electronic health records (EHRs) to achieve efficiency (The Caregiver Space). With EHRs, physicians can easily access patients’ histories, which are essential in deciding the treatment process that matches the patient. EHR can also automatically notify physicians on important issues such as intolerances to certain medications or other types of allergies. Indeed, this feature is extremely important when the patient is unconscious. Furthermore, EHRs enhance medical billing and coding.Recently, medical codes soared from 13,600 to 69,000, which be difficult for medical billers and coders to handle without EHR (The Caregiver Space). This technology allows easy entry of data into a computerized system, thus, consuming less time. EHRs also minimize the probability of errors in patient and financial data.

EHRs are not the only disruptive technologies seeping into healthcare. Barcodes or RFID tags are being used in hospitals to prevent medical errors, thus, patient safety (Banova). Healthcare providers are now scanning patients and medications before administering to ensure accurate drug, dosage, route, and timing (The Caregiver Space). RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology saves hospitals the time and finances by enabling real-time tracking, communication, identification, and other metrics like temperature and location of patient data. This system helps health care providers to administer the appropriate medication to the right patient, minimizing clinical errors.

Technological advancement has also revolutionized how medical data is stored or accessed. Massive amounts of information can be collected technologically from many sources, which are then processed and used for analytics (Banova). This phenomenon is known as ‘Big Data’ in the digital age. Healthcare professionals naturally collect and store enormous data amounts, which are then processed by data experts. Health information gathered helps to reduce healthcare costs, predict epidemics, avoid preventable deaths, reduce healthcare wastage, improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare, and develop new drugs (Banova). With a shift to EHR, healthcare providers need expandable, efficient, and safe storage solutions. Cloud computing plays this role. The cloud uses software and hardware to operate through the internet. This technology enables storage of masses of data at a lower cost and without the requirement of additional hardware. Its superior backup and recovery features protect hospitals’ sensitive information against loss. Medical researchers also use the cloud for data analysis (Banova). With this technology, patients and providers, as well as other parties, can access and share any amount of data required.

Technology has also transformed the communication processes in the healthcare industry. With a growing number of cell phones and other mobile devices that enable internet connection, the medical industry has changed the communication strategies to connect effectively with clients (Banova). Information and communication technology (ICT) links professionals to providers, creating efficiencies especially in rural and other regions with inadequate healthcare facilities or specialists. Providers use Emails, telemedicine, telemonitoring, webcam, and smartphones to share information that aids in the diagnosis, management, education, support, or counseling of patients (Banova). Telemedicine refers to a two-way video communication used in various fields including cardiovascular healthcare while telemonitoring enables remote tracking of vital signs and symptoms. Telemedicine technologies have greatly improved processes in healthcare, which have led shorter waiting times for patients, improved efficiencies, thus, savings, and increased medical accessibility especially in rural areas (Banova).

Mobile technology has also enhanced mobility in the healthcare industry. Professionals use smartphones to perform tasks like accessing a patient’s EHR , sending emails for patient foloow-up, reviewing medical information, or even prescribing drugs and treatment (Banova). ICT enables medical billers to notify patients on outstanding medical bills and payment schedules in a timely fashion. Furthermore, healthcare apps are being developed. Banova notes that healthcare apps are among the fastest growing markets in the field of mobile application development. These apps provide greater flexibility for professionals, patients, and administrators, therefore, helping to deliver high-quality services and improved accessibility at lower costs. The apps enhance health awareness and communication between care providers and patients. They also promote chronic care management, medication management, diagnostic, personal health records, mental health, fitness and weight loss, and medical reference.

Another area that has seen prodigious improvements in medicine is disease control. New technologies have enhanced the prediction, prevention, and control of emerging infectious disease. Due to factors like travel, trade, and population density, agricultural practices, and climate change, novel infections like Ebola and influenza have emerged (Christaki 558). Global surveillance of emerging infectious diseases has facilitated detection of changes in disease incidence rate and the recognition and characterization of endemic’s syndromes (Christaki 558). Once a threat of a novel infection is recognized, surveillance is done to determine the spread of the disease in order to undertake preventive and control measures effectively. Traditionally, the medical industry relied on routine reporting by hospitals on events and disease. This technique requires a public health network, which is costly and subject to delays. Event-based surveillance allows for rapid collection and analysis of unstructured data from diverse sources including social media sites and apps, news reports, and internet-based searches (Christaki 559). It is known that the first reports of infectious diseases are mostly made by informal sources including social media and the internet. Through digital surveillance, potential epidemic can be detected earlier before the official notification.  For instance, the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN), which is an event-based surveillance system, systematically scans countless information sources for reports regarding unusual disease events. According to Christaki, GPHIN scans approximately 300 news items per day (559). Other notable event-based technologies are HealthMap, Argus, EpiSPIDER, and Biocaster.Additionally, web-based surveillance, through tools such as web queries like Google Flu Trends, provides real-time information on potential infectious disease. These technologies enable laboratories and other institutions to collect infectious disease information to verify outbreaks, provide real-time alerts, and respond to the disease threat in a timely manner.

With the furtherance of computational science, the development of methodologies for epidemic simulation has been enhanced (Christaki 559). Detailed data for each person in a target population is collected and analyzed. Alternatively, data on geographic area census and inter-population mobility patterns can be computerized to determine the characteristics of the disease and predict its spread. This process is known as disease modeling, and Global Epidemic and Mobility (GLEaM) is one of the commonly used tools for modeling. Computational modeling helps scientists to understand how mobility patterns impact the progression of epidemics. Other notable technologies for predicting and preventing diseases are molecular techniques that have enhanced pathogen discovery and diagnostic and the remote sensing technology that is used to track environmental changes that can be useful in the prediction of disease (Christaki 560). These technologies have greatly improved the detection and response to novel threats, which has been pivotal in controlling and preventing new pandemics.

Technological advancement, undoubtedly, has immensely impacted the healthcare industry. Processes in the healthcare industry have greatly changed due to the evolution of technology. Patient care has improved with technological tools like EHR, Barcodes, and RFID. Data storage and accessibility have become easier and safer with cloud computing while ICT has enhanced communication between providers and patients. Lastly, event-based and web-based surveillance, infectious disease modeling, molecular techniques, and remote sensing technologies have improved the prediction, detection, and response to infectious diseases, which enhances disease prevention and control.

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Banova, Bianca. “The Impact of Technology on Healthcare.” American Institute of Medical Sciences & Education. 24 April 2018. https://www.aimseducation.edu/blog/the-impact-of-technology-on-healthcare/.

Christaki, Eirini. “New Technologies in Predicting, Preventing, and Controlling Emerging Infectious Diseases.” Virulence, vol. 6, no. 6, pp. 558-565. 11 June 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4720248/.

The Caregiver Space. “How Technology is Improving Patient Care.” The Caregiver Space. 23 Feb. 2018. Retrieved from https://thecaregiverspace.org/how-technology-is-improving-patient-care/

The Telegraph. “Chinese Scientist Claims to have Created ‘World’s First genetically edited babies.” The Telegraph. 26 Nov. 2018. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/11/26/chinese-scientist-creates-worlds-first-genetically-edited-babies/.