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Technology’s Contribution to the Future of Healthcare

Close-up view of a laboratory microscope, with bright white icons representing various medical functions and devices superimposed over the top.

Technology from other sectors can be repurposed to improve caregiving in the healthcare industry. It can improve many areas of healthcare, including communication between facilities, the protection of patient privacy, and accessibility, in addition to general improvements in the tools and equipment available for patient care. 

Telemedicine

Telemedicine offers the ability for patients to communicate with their doctor and attend appointments remotely using video conferencing technology. This technology went through explosive growth as a result of the COVID-10 pandemic, due to the need for social distancing, especially in a healthcare setting. To that point, telemedicine can greatly benefit doctors and patients by reducing the risk of disease transmission. It also is beneficial as a means of increasing healthcare accessibility for patients with mobility disabilities, as well as improving scheduling flexibility for doctors and patients alike. 

Mobile Apps

Mobile apps can help patients manage their healthcare information and needs. They can be used for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Listing of test results;
  • Reminders for medications and appointments;
  • Portals for telemedicine;
  • Messaging options;
  • Scheduling options;
  • Fitness tracking.

The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)

The Internet of Medical Things, also sometimes called “connected health” is the integration of a wider range of smart devices in the healthcare industry, and is perhaps the most notable way that technology has revolutionized medical care. 

The integration of a wide array of smart devices has allowed healthcare information to be shared more efficiently. This not only allows healthcare workers to communicate more effectively with patients, but also allows different healthcare workers and facilities to more effectively share information with each other. This can streamline the process of sharing information such as patient records. 

Blockchain

Blockchain is a revolutionary third-party means of storing and processing information. Because patient information is highly sensitive, it is important that healthcare facilities have extremely secure means of storing and sharing this information. The data managed in this way is encrypted and stored through a decentralized third-party platform, and this severely decreases the chances of interception from outside parties. 

Data Collection

Blockchain facilitates the collection of important healthcare data by ensuring that the many computer systems involved are using the same method for encryption and storage. This maintains seamless integration across many devices, using a universally accessible platform. 

Security and Safety

As the amount of patient data that is stored electronically increases, cybersecurity protocols have had to develop accordingly. Information management through blockchain addresses the risk of data breach by ensuring that all data is encrypted, and by using a decentralized system that guards against the dangers of a direct cyber attack. 

Ownership of Digital Assets

Digital assets are increasingly valuable, but this value is limited if they only feature limited accessibility or are not properly secured. As such, a blockchain system helps maintain the value of digital assets by promoting usability and security. 

Virtual and Augmented Reality 

Virtual and augmented reality systems give the user an immersive virtual experience using a range of sensory elements. Virtual and augmented reality systems can be a valuable educational tool for healthcare workers, because they can give them realistic experiences with delicate procedures before having to perform the procedures on a real patient. This is especially valuable in the context of surgical operations. 

Virtual and augmented reality systems may also be leveraged as a calming option for patients in distress, as they can be placed in a less stressful virtual environment. This may also help healthcare professionals more effectively do their duties, as they can work better with a more relaxed patient. 

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence processes large amounts of information to assess patterns and make predictions about human thought processes. This can have a wide variety of applications, especially as an accessory to informational dissemination. 

Chatbots

Chatbots are AI-powered messaging windows that can help answer patient questions that would otherwise take up the time of a real healthcare worker. This can be extremely helpful for simple questions, such as those related to basic symptom checking, and inquiries about facility operations, e.g. hours and appointment preparation. This not only frees up real healthcare workers so that they can handle more complex tasks, but also allows patients to get more immediate answers to simple questions. 

Speech recognition and voice search are valuable tools to help people with disabilities find and navigate health information. In this application, AI recognizes natural speech patterns and uses this to adjust the information recorded for voice search. This can reduce mistakes, and therefore allow the searcher to more easily navigate searches relating to their healthcare. 

Monitoring Solutions

Artificial intelligence can be used to identify expected and ideal patterns in various processes and, consequently, identify and anticipate departures from expected events. This can be helpful for everything from cybersecurity applications, to procedural optimization, to safety management, to predictive maintenance. 

For example, artificial intelligence could be used to fine-tune safety-sensitive procedures like radiation monitoring, where there isn’t much room for error. Artificial intelligence could be used to identify safe levels of radiation and departures from those levels. It could also be used to identify unusual activity with radiation technology which could indicate misuse or technical difficulties. In conjunction with other preventative safety methods like safety glasses and lead aprons, such monitoring solutions can significantly reduce safety risks associated with human error in a healthcare setting.

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