How Technology Can Transform Healthcare in the Coming Years
It’s no secret that technology is moving forward at an increasingly fast pace. Sometimes it has the feeling of growing by leaps and bounds. Dozens of articles can be pulled up daily reading “Scientists can now…” and “By 2025, experts believe that…”.
It can sometimes be hard to discern fact from fiction—or at least from conjecture. One area with a promising future, however, is healthcare. Doctors, scientists, and others have already begun to shift the industry in a positive direction thanks to the application of technology. Here are just a few different ways that technology and medicine may advance together within your lifetime.
It’s already a safe bet that with everyone “Zooming” around the country and across time zones that medicine is sure to follow. In fact, telehealth is already on the rise, from 25% of physicians in 2018 utilizing the technology to almost 80% during the 2020 pandemic. And while numbers will probably not remain quite that high as the danger of COVID-19 subsides, the overall growth in telehealth isn’t going anywhere.
The benefits of telemedicine are numerous. Instead of driving to the doctor’s office for a visit, patients can call in from their home or work. This may make scheduling a doctor’s appointment easier and encourage people to see the doctor more regularly. It may also help doctors diagnose more accurately as they can see the patient in their natural environment, potentially giving clues as to their conditions.
Track Health Data
With the rise of wearable health devices and trackers, using technology to track your health data is quickly becoming a reality. Many smartphones, apps, smartwatches and devices such as the Fitbit can already be utilized to help you keep track of your basic metrics. For patients managing chronic conditions, this technology could one day develop to help monitor blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and other functions that patients need to keep track of to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Doctors, too, may be able to use this data to better diagnose and treat their patients. More data generally leads to a better diagnosis, as your doctor may be able to see how you’re doing around the clock, not just during a routine visit.
Incorporate Artificial Intelligence
The development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has already had a tremendous impact on the medical field. Medicine has already seen huge advances in cardiology, pulmonology, and other fields. The improvement of medical care using AI now seems more of a certainty than a conjecture.
One benefit is that AI can analyze large data sets and perform routine administrative tasks. This may help to lower healthcare costs overall. The more data that is available to doctors, the better they can accurately diagnose and treat their patients. AI is already showing promising developments to help doctors deliver more individualized treatments plans for patients.
Improve Treatment Effectiveness
Doctors and patients alike have always been clamoring for more effective disease treatment. With the combination of AI and technology it may at last be within reach. Technology can also help improve the effectiveness of the treatments that are already available.
In dermatology, for example, technology has already made a big dent and its impact is only suspected to increase. The use of 3D printing technologies, for example, can help doctors generate new skin tissue for patients when there is a tissue shortage. Algorithms may be able to detect skin cancer earlier and more accurately. Advances can improve dermatology treatments with lasers and other devices.
Training with Augmented Reality
Now and in the future, doctors and students may train with the help of augmented reality.
You may be hearing a lot already about virtual reality, but augmented reality could have serious implications for the medical field as well.
In augmented reality, recipients do not lose touch with the real world. That’s not the point. Instead, the goal of augmented reality is to “download” information to the recipient as quickly as possible. Using augmented reality could help students learn surgical methods, or help current surgeons heighten their skills.
Some companies are already working to develop “mixed reality” headsets to train medical students and professionals. None of these are yet available, of course, but it does seem the way of the future.
Affordable Genome Sequencing
The Human Genome Project, the first complete sequencing of the entirety of human DNA, cost the government a staggering $2.7 billion. That’s a price tag that is out of reach of all but the wealthiest individuals. And yet the ability to sequence and read our own individual genome contains a rich mine of information, much of which could be used medically.
In fact, doctors predict that within the next 20 years genome sequencing will be available for every patient. The hope is that as technology improves, computers will become faster and AI more adept at reading data. Between those two factors, sequencing costs may lower to a more affordable rate, allowing people to get their own genome sequenced. This could help individuals have a better understanding of their personal risk factors.
Delivering with Nanotechnology
Similar to AI, nanotechnology offers a promising future within the healthcare field. Nanotechnology is essentially the invention and application of tiny and microbots. In the medical field, nanotechnology could help patients with medication dosages and more precise surgeries.
Treating with Virtual Reality
Virtual reality (VR) is widely believed to be the way of the future in terms of treatment methods. VR has many practical applications, but one example is in managing patient pain. VR technology has already shown success in managing patient pain, and it’s a safer alternative than prescribed opioids.
Virtual reality has also shown promising leads when it comes to treating mental health disorders such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. With successful application already a reality, many doctors believe VR is the way of the future.
While humanity has always been bad at predicting the future, the current forecast for improving the medical field through technology seems certain. What’s next on the horizon for medicine?
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