Medical technology is a broad term used to describe innovations that have played a crucial role in sustaining and improving the health of populations around the world.
Being so broad, this term can be used to describe any and all innovations, from small examples such as adhesive bandages and ankle braces, right up to the more impressive technologies such as MRI machines and artificial organs.
In the past, most medical technology innovations in the healthcare industry were designed exclusively for private hospitals, full of patients who could afford to pay a premium for getting the best treatment.
Over the last decade, however, the development of technology and the obvious impact this has had on treatment outcomes has become far more accessible.
Some critics argue that the accessibility and increased reliance on technology in the healthcare industry is a bad thing because it threatens patient centered treatment and prioritizes profit margins. However, many executives would agree that the opposite is actually true.
With handy algorithms, software and precision technologies that simplify the process of diagnosing, treating and managing conditions, health technologies provide doctors with more opportunities to get to know their patients at an individual level and tweak treatment plans accordingly.
Several health innovations we will talk about below reduce medical errors, which means patients can receive the treatment they expect and get healthy, faster.
Healthcare Technologies Doctors Should Use This Year
Chatbots are designed to obtain information from users and provide answers based on their input. In the healthcare space, chatbots can be used by doctors to collect information that allows them to make a health assessment to help decide what medication, if any, should be prescribed.
In addition, healthbots can save patients and nurses much time (and money!) by eliminating the need to collect information using old-school methods (pen and paper), by sending patient data to EHR systems or at least a CRM, and automatically digitizing patient records.
Wearable and IOT Devices
Hallmarks of the internet of things (Iot) technology, wearable devices are extremely useful to doctors as they redefine patient diagnostics, disease management and pre-emptive care techniques.
Basically, wearable devices allow doctors to remotely access and analyze their patients’ health data. With many wearable devices costing as little as $30, these devices are readily accessible to the general public and therefore will become more and more popular among physicians over the next 1-2 years.
Wearable devices can also be used by doctors to better manage patient conditions, leading to less work and better outcomes for both parties.
Artificial Intelligence in healthcare uses complex algorithms, such as machine learning, natural language processing or image recognition to analyze big data sets and provide physicians with recommendations in a matter of seconds.
One simple example, iCAD is an FDA-approved digital solution for early cancer detection. The iCAD software looks at 300+ images of a mammogram and produces a probability score associated with a patient’s likelihood of having or developing cancer. In a recent interview, the iCAD CEO talked about how the software is 8% more accurate at detecting cancer than radiologists. “It’s like having 100,000 doctors looking at one image”, the CEO mentioned on the podcast.
Artificial Intelligence helps healthcare providers become more efficient and accurate than relying on human intelligence alone. This, in turn, makes it far easier for doctors to diagnose, manage and treat symptoms for their patients.
Blockchain is an “immutable, public digital ledger, similar to a database”. With no central system, blockchain is almost impossible to hack into, therefore it’s the perfect way to protect doctors and patients from experiencing cyber attacks and having information leaked when sharing or storing it online.
A very common example of how blockchain is effectively used by doctors on a regular basis comes from a company called Embleema. Embleema is a two-sided marketplace where patients can share their medical records with researchers and doctors who want to study a particular condition. Built on top of blockchain, the platform is both secure and impenetrable. Most importantly, it provides an online depository of medical records that can be shared with doctors who are given access to this data by specific patients.
For the longest time, virtual reality was associated primarily with the gaming industry.
But VR is one of the most promising emerging medical technologies that can profoundly redefine how doctors provide care to their patients.
Virtual reality provides medical students, doctors and other healthcare professionals with a unique opportunity to safely experience a real life scenario with current or new technology before testing it on real patients.
Last year, Forbes magazine ran a provocative article on how VR is redefining healthcare. The article discussed how doctors are already employing VR to wean patients from opioids, to treat people who suffer from PTSD or even for purposes of treating depression.
With countless use cases, and many more to come, doctors should certainly pay close attention to Virtual Reality. It’s definitely here to stay!
Telehealth technology can be used by doctors to provide medical care through digital devices, without having to see their patients in person during a face-to-face appointment.
Not only does this help patients who find traditional healthcare methods inaccessible, but it also makes it easier for doctors to treat a larger portion of the population within a shorter period of time on top of monitoring their long term patients with chronic conditions.
Telemedicine is an amazing technology which is extending the quality of care to various populations who have traditionally not consulted physicians: the uninsured and underinsured market which, affects 82 million Americans on a regular basis.
On the other side of the isle, telehealth also provides physicians with an additional stream of revenue. There were over 35 million telemedicine visits in 2018 and psychiatrists and radiologists are the most sought after doctor specialties on telemedicine platforms.
Automated Texts And Messaging Platforms
It may not be considered the most formal way to communicate with patients, but using automated text messaging has been found to be extremely effective.
99% of text messages sent by physicians are opened, with 90% of those being opened within the first 3 minutes.
This makes this form of communication extremely effective for dealing with a multitude of chronic illness patients, encouraging medication adherence and appointment attendance.
Medical technologies are already showing increasingly smart advances that could change the way we interact with medical professionals in the near future.
According to some authors, the increased focus on wireless communication technologies (especially when it comes to wearable devices) will result in more people being diagnosed remotely, without even having to see a doctor in person.
Despite some fears within the healthcare profession, the adoption of various technologies in the healthcare field does not mean doctors will become any less useful as time goes on.
In fact, certain medical technologies like telehealth and smartwatches could lead to the physician’s role becoming even more important over time as they may be expected to interact with even more patients than before.
Make no mistake: these medical technologies may also require doctors to monitor conditions over a longer period of time and get familiarized with the use of digitally transmitted data sets, meaning they will be much more involved in people’s care.
Technological advances are rapidly progressing. For all our sakes, we hope doctors will embrace the new technologies so our collective quality of health can continue to improve over time.