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Friday, March 16, 2018

Technology in Healthcare: Promising benefits in patient care

We're sitting on the cusp of a technological revolution that will surpass any such shifts we have seen in the past. The speed at which new technologies are disrupting business as usual across so many different industries and practices is unprecedented, and it comes with both a promise and a threat. It promises to make our lives easier, more efficient, and better connected while at the same time threatening to upend norms we've come to depend upon and disrupt management systems that have been in place for decades. 

The healthcare industry is at the forefront of this dual promise/threat. Here is a look at the benefits that these new technologies can bring. 

Better Doctor/Patient Relationships

Technology promises to improve doctor/patient relationships by taking some of the burdens off of doctors and offloading them onto technological devices instead. Many of the emerging technologies in healthcare promise to address these issues.

  • Virtual assistants- Just like the virtual assistants in your smartphone or smart home device, today's healthcare virtual assistants are voice-activated devices that can make daily tasks easier and hands-free. Healthcare professionals can give commands and pull up or update charts without ever lifting a finger. This gives them more time to spend on direct patient interactions. 
  • Customer experience software- Technology promises to deliver a better customer service experience. Many screening tools are now available online where a customer can fill them out at their leisure before coming to an appointment. In addition, technological advancements have made making payments, scheduling or changing appointments, and getting lab results faster. By making these systems automated, customers spend less time on hold or waiting for a healthcare professional to call them with results. 

Better Health Outcomes

While doctor/patient relationships are important, the most promising aspects of healthcare technology advances are in the potential to change health outcomes themselves. Today's technologies promise to create more efficient medical treatments that can reach greater numbers of people than previously possible. In other words, technology is giving us the promise of a healthier world. 

  • Electronic Health Records (EHRs)- The move to EHRs offers a host of potential benefits including improved patient care, better cost efficiency, more accurate diagnostics, and increased patient participation. In many ways, EHR technology offers a hub for combining and sharing data with ease, creating consistency across outcomes. EHRs help medical professionals ensure that patient data is accurately aggregated, preventing any crucial data from slipping through the cracks. They also allow providers to send information after appointments, which helps increase compliance with follow-up procedures and aftercare instructions. 
  • Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)- The Internet of Things (IoT) is a shorthand way to refer to the number of devices that are now linked to the internet and transmitting data. The IoMT refers to medical devices linked in this way. IoMT technology promises to break down many healthcare barriers. For example, we are facing an aging population that will strain our existing healthcare resources if we don't find better methods of delivering care. IoMT devices that measure routine blood or urine samples could allow patients to administer these tests at home and have their results directly uploaded. This would cut down on the costs and resources needed for these routine screenings while also making compliance easier and more likely. 
  • Cloud Intelligence- Perhaps one of the ways that technology best promises to deliver better health outcomes is by breaking down information silos. Every participating healthcare professional who uploads information into any cloud system is helping to build a collective set of knowledge that benefits healthcare as a whole. Amazing discoveries can be shared and built upon in minutes instead of years. Doctors across the country can connect via video chat and perform group consultations. Medical knowledge has always been built collectively with each new discovery building on the past. Now we have the opportunity to do that much faster and with more inclusivity. 

The promises of healthcare technology are certainly impressive and open up new possibilities. Their implementation, however, can be complex and bring a host of problems to our existing systems. In our follow up, we'll examine some of the pitfalls of this new technology and what we can expect during the transition.

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