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How Emerging Digital Technologies Can Improve Healthcare


Working in the healthcare industry is a hard place to be, but because it is so rewarding and so interesting, many people choose to do it, and those who don’t work in this industry should be grateful that there are people who can help them when they need it. The problem is that there are so many changes that happen and it can be hard – even overwhelming – to keep up with them.

The difficulty lies not only in understanding the changes and new technologies that are emerging, but also in knowing which ones you should invest in, especially since they do tend to be expensive, and once the money is spent, there is no going back. Add to this the shift in how people work, with more flexible hours being required and more mental health concerns to think about, and for those whose job it is to determine how to spend budgets and which tech is going to be most useful, it can feel like an impossible task.

This is why it is crucial that you research every area you are considering investing in before you make any decisions. In-depth research might be time-consuming, but it is exactly what needs to happen if you want to make sure the decision you are making is the right one. Read on to discover how some of the very best new technologies can improve the healthcare industry.

On-Demand Healthcare

What does the term ‘on-demand’ mean to you? For most people, it brings forth an idea that people are able to make their own decisions about where and when they are treated. On-demand healthcare isn’t something that is possible in all areas of the medical industry at the moment, but thanks to technology, this is beginning to change, which is excellent news for the patients. If they are more in control of their treatments, at least in the areas they are able to be, they will be happier, calmer, and more likely to listen to the instructions their doctor, nurse, or other practitioner is giving them. Often it is the lack of control that causes so many problems rather than the procedures that need to take place.

The technology that is coming about is something that patients can use on their mobile devices to make appointments, change those appointments, and keep up to date with everything that is happening with their own specific case and condition. The idea of using a smartphone to do this is crucial. At least 81 percent of US adults own a smartphone, and if they are able to use it to arrange their healthcare in the same way that they are able to order a pizza or buy household items online, they will feel much happier about it.

Better Learning

We are always told there is a shortage of good nursing staff within the healthcare industry. This is a big problem, as nurses are crucial to patients’ health and wellbeing, and although doctors will find the cure, it is the nurses who make the patient feel better in terms of keeping them relaxed and as happy as they can be in their situation. They also are responsible for giving out much of the medication for patients and they dress wounds. They do a lot, and they are absolutely essential to a well-run hospital or clinic.

We need to have more people deciding to become nurses because, otherwise, patient care is going to suffer. Yet it can take a long time to study to be a nurse, and if you don’t start that studying as soon as you leave high school or college, it can be hard to fit it into your life, especially once you have a job and/or a family to take care of.

This problem used to mean that thousands of people who would have made excellent nurses couldn’t afford the time to study and make the changes in their own lives that would enable them to do what they want to do. Thankfully, technology has changed this. It is now possible to study online to gain qualifications in nursing, including Marymount’s online MSN-FNP, which has opened up the field of nursing to almost everyone who would not have been able to follow their dream otherwise. Online learning is flexible, so you can study at your own pace and learn in between work and family life. Of course, this does mean that your course will usually take longer to finish, but if it also means your goal is achieved and you can do what you want to do, it is certainly worth it.

The great thing about the technology that allows remote learning is that it can help to at least partially solve the problem of a nursing shortage. The more people who can study, the more nurses there will be. Removing some of the barriers to learning that were preventing people from becoming nurses is a great step towards making the healthcare industry a better one.

Another wonderful thing about remote learning, is that you can just about everything, and at your own pace. Say for instance you want to learn basic life support, there’s a plethora of credible and accredited healthcare service tutorials online. With such courses delivered to you in such convenient manner, you really have no excuse for furthering your career both within the healthcare industry, or any other industry of your choice. All you need is to be disciplined and committed enough to see things through.

Big Data

Improving healthcare is a hugely important part of the industry. In order to do this, lessons need to be learned from the past, and any data that can be used to make changes is crucial. The problem is, there are so many different hospitals and clinics and smaller medical centers that gathering all this data has, for a long time, been impossible. As much as it would help, it relies on healthcare professionals completing forms, contacting research groups, and otherwise spending time doing things that aren’t anything to do – at least immediately – with saving and improving lives.

New technology means that this ‘big data’ is no longer lost, but it also means that busy healthcare professionals don’t have to spend their time gathering this data themselves and sending it to the organizations that need it. Better data monitoring through new tech means that the system is automated, and periodic reports are sent to the relevant places. This means that:

Medication errors can be reduced

Preventive care can be increased (reducing the number of ‘frequent flyers’ by creating preventive plans for them)

Better staffing levels can be achieved

Virtual Reality

When you think of virtual reality, your mind will probably go to gaming first, to visions of people playing video games with their heads in virtual reality equipment and specialist gloves on their hands. In fact, although this kind of gaming was prohibitively expensive just a few years ago, today it is something that many serious gamers are going to have in their homes.

What has this got to do with healthcare and improving the industry for patients and staff alike? The answer is: a lot. Emerging technology within the healthcare field means that patients can – in some instances – be treated using virtual reality. It has a number of different applications, all of which can go a long way to improving the quality of life of patients and make medical professionals’ lives and jobs much easier.

Pain management is one area where virtual reality is showing to be extremely useful. Before VR started to be used, doctors were prescribing pills for pain management. Although this would work, there are a number of risks involved including side effects, overdoses, and addiction. VR is a safer alternative to these drugs; it is used to put patients into a calm state, ‘transporting’ them to an environment of their choice, whether that be a sunny beach or a snowy mountain. This relaxation method of pain control and management shows excellent results and is safer than using drugs (and less expensive in the long term), which means this particular form of technology is going to go from strength to strength.

Virtual reality can do a lot more than that, too. It’s a great training tool, for example, allowing trainee surgeons, doctors, and nurses to perform difficult procedures without having to go near a real patient until they are entirely ready. This means they will have much more training than ever before and the risk of making a mistake is minimized; if a mistake is made, they are operating on a computer program rather than a real person, so a lesson is learned but no real harm is done. This is a major breakthrough in medical training. Additionally, another technology that is being implemented in the healthcare sector is Augmented Reality (AR). For example, an AR surgical navigation system provides surgeons with navigational views, integrated targeting systems, precise instrument tracking, and real-time 3D reconstruction during surgeries. This enables surgeons to perform their work with higher levels of accuracy and success.

Wearable Medical Devices

Wearable medical devices are yet another new piece of technology that is allowing the healthcare industry to grow and thrive. By using wearable medical technology, healthcare professionals are able to feedback to their superiors and to healthcare companies immediately, offering real-time data and experiences in order to make changes happen much more quickly when they are needed.

It is not the healthcare workers who wear this tech but the patients themselves. In the past, patients might see a doctor once a year (maybe not even that) for a checkup and otherwise wouldn’t particularly think about their health. Today, however, this is changing. We are all becoming much more aware of the need to keep ourselves healthy, and this means we often focus more on the prevention aspect of healthcare. By using wearable medical devices, health is able to be better monitored, and that information can be linked back to the doctor or clinician immediately, letting them know what kinds of issues – if any – the patient might be facing.

Therefore, these devices are useful for two reasons. Firstly, they mean that patients can take better care of themselves but don’t have to do it with a hospital stay or much input from a healthcare professional at all until the results are in. Secondly, it means that changes and improvements can be made on an ongoing basis as needs are realized.

Just some of the wearable medical devices either being developed or already in use include:

Blood pressure monitors

Heart rate monitors

Exercise trackers

Oximeters (monitors that determine how much oxygen is in the blood)

Sweat meters (ideal for monitoring the blood sugar of diabetics)

Patients like these devices because they make the healthcare experience a much more personalized one, and doctors like them because they are easy to use and offer all the information they need in a fraction of the time.

Predictive Healthcare

Knowing what diseases and illnesses are going to be most prevalent in the future is a crucial aspect of the healthcare industry. Having a good idea of what is coming means that medication can be bought in the right quantities – or it can be manufactured if needs be. It also means that additional training can be carried out so that everyone working within the healthcare industry knows exactly how to deal with the problems they are about to face.

It may sound like an impossible dream since we cannot know the future, but using new and emerging medical technology it is starting to become possible. This is thanks to the big data we mentioned earlier, which is being gathered and sent to agencies who are able to extrapolate the information and use it to determine what the most likely issues are going to be in the near future. Although this method is still not going to be one hundred percent accurate, it will give those who need to have a good idea of what they might be facing ample opportunity to put what they need in motion so they can manage the problem effectively if it does arise.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is starting to become much more prevalent in all areas of society. You only need to make a phone call or go online and use a website’s chat feature to be faced with AI and realize how it can help you. Of course, there will be times when real human interaction is essential, but how much time would be saved and how many patients could be seen much more quickly if artificial intelligence became a part of the usual routine of healthcare?

One such innovation is already in use in some US hospitals. It is called Moxi, and it is a droid-like robot that fetches and carries, meaning that nurses can concentrate on patient care and the robot will go get whatever is required in terms of medication and dressings. It sounds incredible, but this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to AI and its utilization within the healthcare sector.

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