The importance of Technology in Healthcare

Technology in Healthcare

Technology’s impact on healthcare and medicine is undeniable. The importance of technology in healthcare is enormous, especially given the vast number of immediate benefits we have seen in innovations in medical technology.

But for healthcare specifically, this goes beyond just making things faster, more accurate, and more efficient. Instead, technology development in healthcare today represents significant changes to how we perceive medicine, physiology, and human life.

It all starts with untold possibilities, progressively advancing technological concepts in medicine of the current era that would have been practically inconceivable just a century ago.

Healthcare Technology Directing Population Growth

medicine on a shelf
Credit by AL.Eyad via Flickr

The industrial revolution is often cited as the most important technological era influencing current population growth.

That being said, increased understanding of medicine and physiology and the development of technological devices and machines developed after this period also played a significant role

While more familiar technological concepts in healthcare today were not introduced until the 20th century, their foundations can be found as early as the 19th century.

Take electroencephalography (EEG), for example. Bioelectric signals have been independently observed and studied in many fields since the mid-1800s. Most notably in the 1840s, through British physician Richard Caton and his electric signal observations in exposed rabbits and monkeys.

Today, the global population increase continues its exponential growth thanks to many technological innovations in healthcare. As a result, the basic quality of life has improved thanks to antibiotics and better medical procedures.

In addition, modern machines such as dialyzers and newer enhancements like internet-connected wearable technology help maintain good health and preventive care. This is to the point that the human lifespan stays on its upper average no matter what age or social group-specific population samples belong to.

Healthcare Technology for Preventing Unnecessary Death

baby in ICU with technology capturing digital biomarker data showing the importance of technology in healthcare
Credit by Martin LaBar via Flickr

Up until the mid-1950s, Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) was one of the leading causes of premature deaths for newborn infants. However, this changed with the invention of the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. 

This is designed to keep lung alveoli filled with enough air to allow natural surfactants to sustain breathing. As a result, it increased babies’ survival rate with RDS from 25% to more than 75% by the 1990s. Artificial supplements that act as surfactants were then developed to reduce infant RDS mortality rates.

For the most part, direct technological innovations in healthcare like these help improve our survival rates as individuals. It is still pretty much a work in progress, of course. But compared to several centuries ago, many of the afflictions that would have been instantly lethal to a person can now be treated or prevented. This perhaps is the essence of the importance of technology in healthcare, more than electronic health/medical records, chatbots, and service automation.

Impact of Innovations In Medical Technology

Doctor using healthcare API with patient lying on bed beside
Credit by Banc d’Imatges Infermeres via Flickr

Other technological innovations that have had a significant impact on patient care and the reduction of mortality rates include:

Machine Detection 

Technology, in general, has allowed the development of medical devices, machines, and tools that provide measurements that reduce medical errors. More basic ones like sonographic imaging (ultrasound) can observe a child’s activity in the womb. MRI scanners can detect foreign objects, which could also be potential tumors or cysts. Even powerful electron microscopes can be used to peer through the smallest of biological invaders: viruses.

Early Warning for patient care 

If a digital device is connected to a patient and sends a warning notification, healthcare professionals can immediately take action to prevent complications or death. Modern networking technologies like Wi-Fi or even standard wired local networks can constantly relay patient care data within the same facility.

Remote Monitoring 

Various hardware and software options are now available to extend the use of medical technology measuring devices. On the simpler end would be fitness trackers, while more advanced examples include pocket EEGs. More conveniently, current telecommunications infrastructure can allow face-to-face medical consultation even at significantly far distances, aiding in better preventive lifestyles.

Advanced Diagnosis 

compared to earlier eras, healthcare providers of today have access to a plethora of modern academic knowledge, collated information, tools, and electronic health records to help develop accurate and detailed diagnoses for patients.

 Technology in Healthcare and Better Patient Care

man running in remote location
Stock photo via Pixabay

Around three decades ago, during the worst period of HIV and AIDS awareness, contracting the disease was often considered a death sentence.

Today, there is still no definitive cure for HIV. Nonetheless, today, people with HIV AIDS can enjoy relatively everyday lives thanks to the development of modern antiretroviral therapy (ART) medications. 

When AIDS patients follow the prescribed medical care, they are expected to have an extended life expectancy, often indistinguishable from a non-HIV patient’s lifespan.

Another incredible impact of technology in healthcare is life preservation. Healthcare providers can now provide a patient with innovative solutions to mitigate the effects of incurable conditions to the point that a patient can still live long. 

Patients with chronic medical conditions like diabetes no longer have to significantly risk their everyday lives, thanks to a balanced combination within these development fields:

New Drug Synthesis and Treatment Development 

Medical research is always at the forefront of developing new medicine and treatment methods to cure illnesses and improve the quality of life. This is achieved by first focusing on yet-to-be-discovered treatments. But even more so by developing more efficient drugs or procedures for existing treatments.

This, in practice, can be as simple as developing highly-advanced prosthetic limbs to provide a level of experience for the patient that is not functionally different from using organic limbs. Or, it can be as critically important as quickly developing a working vaccine during a worldwide pandemic.

Global Healthcare Viability and Availability

In developed countries, access to healthcare is easier now than in any preceding era:

  1. There is an established infrastructure that can offer medical services.
  2. Information is readily available thanks to the internet.
  3. Modern telecommunication systems and health information technology give medical professionals access to a patient’s electronic health record anytime.

The quality of the healthcare sector in counties across the world varies dramatically. In most countries, cost determines the quality of healthcare a patient can get. However, in developing countries, low-cost healthcare is forced to devise various innovative technology solutions that make medical procedures more efficient and accessible. For example, using a compact, wearable form of once larger diagnostic machines.

Healthcare Information Technology Management and Access

Doctor looking at computer

Computers have evolved significantly since the 1970s. As a result, digital devices that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars at one point are now accessible in our pockets. 

Those that stay on our desktops and in data centers are exponentially more powerful. Such technologies mean that keeping electronic medical patient records is the standard, and accessing patient information (more or less) is possible across distributed medical facilities.

New technology like Artificial intelligence and software automation also helps to optimize further how doctors use medical data today. For example, patients with chronic diseases who require regular consultations can be updated online. In addition, healthcare organizations now have easy remote access to information about patient health status at the press of a button. The result of is that patients can receive a holistic healthcare experience.

Healthcare Technology and Age Extension

spiral clock
Credit by greenzowie via Flickr

The average lifespan of upper-class citizens during the late medieval period was around thirty years. Healthier (and perhaps luckier) people during that time could live to seventy to eighty years old.

But today, barring any accident or premature cause of death, technology’s contribution to the medical field has made it possible to expect that most people around the world would be able to reach such an age. This is due in part to technological advancement transforming healthcare.

The consistent extension of life expectancy per year is perhaps where our ultimate goal in medicine lies. The word “eternal life” may sound almost religious with spiritual inference. However, modern research has shown much promise in revealing the path towards a similar goal. At the very least, we are now starting to understand the mechanics of aging better than ever before:

(DISCLAIMER: These concepts are at the forefront of current scientific research and are thus still subject to change. What’s important to learn from these are the background ideas that they support.)

  1. Anti-Aging Medications

Scientists have long known that (controlled) caloric restriction can extend certain animal groups’ lifespans. Caloric restriction mimetic drugs, as the name suggests, attempts to replicate the same physiological mechanisms to achieve the same effect. Another idea in this category is the research towards developing a drug that could successfully control telomere shortening (the primary aging mechanism in most living creatures).

Both are currently in the experimental and evaluation stages, so practical applications are still far from reality. But the determination of researchers’ toward both concepts gives an idea that there may be something beyond its initially intended goals.

  1. Biomechatronics

Gradually replacing the human body’s more fragile components with artificial ones is a more straightforward path toward life extension. Of course, we can already do this at a basic level today, with technology solutions like pacemakers, prosthetics, portable dialyzers, and the like. But in the future, more advanced design and fabrication methods could allow such technologies to extend human life well beyond the average lifespan of a human being.

  1. Nanotechnology

The use of programmable “smart” microscopic particles has been conceptualized since the early 1900s in science fiction novels. But today, it is being taken seriously in many fields of medical research. In particular, nanotechnology’s inherent advantage of pinpointing “cells of interest” could allow for precise medication strategies. For example, cancerous tumors can be accurately targeted with virtually no damage to the surrounding tissues or the patient’s overall health.

In addition, nanotechnology could also foster the development of internal sensing bots that can provide more detailed patient vital measurements. 

Successfully introducing one into the human body could significantly improve and extend all remote monitoring and medical data functions we have today.

  1. Gene Editing

It is technically the holy grail of life extension, should it become widely practical and ethically regulated in the future. But, to anyone familiar with DNA and RNA, its concept requires no introduction. Gene editing is the power to modify any physiological characteristics of any living organism.

For example, if you want better resistance to certain diseases, or want to have a higher metabolism, or better yet, if you want to alter the genes that affect aging. But, of course, “designer babies” remain the stuff of science fiction today. However, revolutionary gene-editing tools such as CRISPR (Cas9), TALENs, and ZFNs promise to get us there sooner than we might ever imagine.

A World of Zero Birth-Related Deaths

a diagram to show how many women could be saved  from dying at pregnancy or at childbirth
Credit by

Around two hundred years ago, during the 1800s, at least 1.26 million mothers worldwide died of childbirth yearly. Within the same period, at least 43.3% of all infants also died.

Living conditions were the main contributor to these statistics. Still, a significant portion of the cause mortality rates can be attributed to the era’s primitive awareness of healthcare best practices and lack of sophisticated technology.

Our understanding of modern medicine and healthcare technologies has drastically driven down the numbers. From 1.26 million, down to just 300,000 maternal deaths, and from 43.3%, down to just 3.4% of infant deaths per year.

But what is even more uplifting? Humanity can absolutely do even better. We can still strive to achieve zero birth-related deaths before the dawn of the next century. Thus, technology’s importance in healthcare remains undisputed in life and death.

Information Technology in Healthcare

big data text on blue background

Information technologies can provide a wide array of practical and efficient benefits. It helps medical professionals store and retrieves health care data from patients. The technology helps improve patient communication by providing an easy-to-read format for all. Additionally, this helps reduce the risk of drug-related errors. It also helps gain patient details in a medical database without adding a medical checkup. All these technological innovations in healthcare have the same thing. Medical devices provide protection for patients.

The role of big data in healthcare

Big data refers to complicated, large data sets that require careful processing to discover valuable information to shape policy, streamline processes, and help make decisions. Big data has many benefits for the healthcare sector. It is essential because it helps streamline routine procedures and pinpoint and warn about unforeseen gaps in patient care. Therefore, healthcare services need to employ experts whose skills are required to analyze such vast numbers and find patterns.

7 benefits of technology in healthcare?

1. Protect patient privacy

The introduction of the Privacy Rule to the U.S. Government in 2003 – a law that protects medical and financial data.

2. Monitor patient compliance

With medical information technology, a doctor can notify a patient when to take medication and provide reminders of why.

3. Grant access to other healthcare providers

Healthcare workers must share data to deliver effective medical services. For example, in a medical emergency, a patient may be unconscious. Still, access to remote data patient data makes access possible.

4. See Test Results and Records

Many medical practices use software like MyChart, where patient information is readily accessible.

5. Prevent adverse drug reactions

Adverse drug reactions cause approximately 350,000 hospital visits in the USA annually. If one doctor hasn’t been given any information on the other doctor’s prescription, they can cause a severe adverse reaction. However, when medical records are available in an accessible form online, the risks associated with one or more drug interactions or over-prescribing may be significantly lower.

6. The rise of wearable medical devices

The global wearable medical device industry will grow to USD 2755.8 billion by 2023 from USD 8854.9 million in 2017. Some patients prefer to prevent and maintain good health than to react to health issues control. Therefore, there is a demand for more detailed and easily accessible health updates that wearable devices can provide. Demand breeds innovation.

7. Aid in medical data collection and research

If a patient allows, research can gather data for developing and using other medicines. For example, suppose someone has created an arthritis cure. In that case, he can find the person with arthritis quickly to see if that person is interested in participating in a medical study.

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