The use of technology is on the rise in the healthcare sector because it offers solutions that have the potential to make life easier for patients. The emerging healthcare-related applications in recent years is an indication how technology has influenced this field. This post lists the different ways in which technology can help deliver better medical care.
In today’s digital age, technology pervades almost all areas of human life. In the healthcare sector also there is greater scope for technology to help increase the efficiency of services and reliability of diagnoses. Internet has opened a storehouse of information, which was earlier not easily accessible to common people. Today, people are more aware of health problems and the preventive measures to keep health issues at bay. The ease of availability of information has assisted doctors as well as patients in the decision-making process related to medical treatment.
Use of Technology in Healthcare
Technology has become an integral part of the modern society. It holds the potential to enhance the quality of human life. The new technologies being used in the healthcare sector help the health practitioners provide better treatment and care to patients. Here is an account of the different ways in which technology can provide quality health care.
Note: The images provided in this article are not the actual images and are purely for representative purpose.
Taking Samples In Vivo
The ‘IntelliCap’ system, an electronically-controlled pill developed by Medimetrics can be used to study the microbiological composition of the small intestine in a non-invasive way. The micro-electronics technology is used to study the processes and reactions that take place in the small intestine where different kinds of food and ingredients react with each other and affect our health. However, IntelliCap is not just a monitoring system; it is also an effective electronic oral drug delivery system. This intelligent pill has a medication container, a delivery pump, micro-controller, sensors, and wireless data storage system. The system helps deliver drugs to the exact place in the body where it is needed. The usefulness of the IntelliCap system has been proved during the clinical trials that were conducted in USA and Europe. This electronic drug capsule is 26.7 mm long and its diameter is 11 mm. As the capsule travels through the body, it measures the temperature and the pH. Delivery of the medication through the capsule is controlled by the delivery pump. The microprocessor controls the operation of the pump. To ensure the bio-compatibility of the capsule, the electronic components are completely sealed.
MIT’s Huggable Robotic Bear
In this application, the Huggable is used like a patient’s companion and a device that provides the patient’s behavioral data to the nursing staff. The information provided to the nursing staff enables them to take good care of the patient. Such kind of robotic systems are mainly used in pediatric care. When admitted to a hospital, children tend to suffer from anxiety and restlessness. The use of robots like the ‘Huggable’ comes into picture in such cases. Thus, robots not only help in gathering data pertaining to the patient, but also provide the much-needed emotional support to children when they are alone and separated from their parents.
Artificial Retina Technology
The ‘Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System’ was developed by a company called ‘Second Sight’. The technology is also known as bionic eye. The ‘Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System’ comes fitted with a video camera. The miniature video camera is connected to the damaged retina of the patient’s eyes by means of a micro-electrode array. The other parts of the assembly include a transmitter fitted on a pair of eyeglasses, artificial retina and a video processing unit (VDU). This system has been developed for the treatment of patients with advanced retinitis pigmentosa (RP). The ability to perceive movements and images can be improved with the help of this technology.
Smartphone Apps in Healthcare and Fitness
Mobile phones have an important role to play in the field of healthcare where patients can easily access information and different kinds of services. One of the benefits of mobile applications is better communication between doctors and patients. Also it facilitates improved decision-making by healthcare professionals and patients, appointment requests, access to medical and health information, documentation of medical records, etc. By 2018, the mobile health technology market is expected to cross the $8 billion figure. Here are a few mobile applications that are useful in the field of healthcare.
• Jim Black, Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne, Australia and his associates have developed many useful smartphone applications for health workers. However, notable amongst them is the oximeter. The oximeter can be used to measure the oxygen content in RBCs by plugging it into a cell phone. This device allows you to measure the absorption of infrared waves as they pass through the body (ear lobes, fingertips, etc.), which in turn helps measure the oxygen present in RBCs. Incorrect diagnosis and improper treatment due to the unavailability of diagnostic tools are the main reasons behind pneumonia-related deaths in Africa. The oximeter was developed keeping in mind the needs of health workers in Mozambique, for the diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia and other health issues. Given the handiness of this device, it can be used in other such under-developed and remote areas.
• Mobile and tablet applications can help patients understand the medical procedures they have to undergo and seek answers to their queries. Also, doctors would find it easy to answer queries of patients if they are able to explain the procedure through a visual medium. ‘drawMD’, is an application developed for the ‘iPad’ by Visible Health. The drawMD software allows to draw freehand sketches so as to create visuals. It also provides users with a collection of background anatomy images. Such images can be utilized for a better understanding of different kinds of diseases and medical conditions. One can also save visuals using this application and send them to the desired person via email.
• In a hospital setting, a doctor records patients’ information during the daily ward rounds. Mobile-based apps facilitate easy recording of such information. The information collected during the rounds can just be dictated to the phone instead of writing it down. The application thus, helps save a lot of time.
• It is observed that patients are not comfortable memorizing/remembering the instructions given by doctors. In such cases, mobile applications can assist patients in the process of following the doctor’s instructions. The information needed by patients in their recovery phase can be provided through mobile applications. Medication Reminder Apps keep track of the number of pills taken by the patient. Such kind of apps help check whether the patient is running low on pills and is regularly reminded of the same.
• A mobile app called ‘Pumping Weight’ is basically a weight training application which tracks the user’s progress. The application provides users with a week-long schedule. Details on the strength gained through workouts are presented to the user through charts.
• StrongLifts 5×5 is one of the popular apps for strength training. The 5×5 program of this application allows users to record the workout in order to measure the progress.
• One of the commonly used apps in the area of fitness tracking, the ‘Endomondo’, incorporates a GPS system in its design. This mobile application gathers details on walking, running and various other physical activities of the user. Users of this app can share details about the progress they have made in running, walking, etc., with their friends on social networking sites.
Improving Healthcare Systems through Technology
There are many technologies and information processing systems at the disposal of medical practitioners which allow them to take good care of their patients. A few of them are described below.
Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE)
The Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE) is a system through which instructions for the treatment of patients are stored on a computer network through an electronic entry system which in turn are conveyed to the medical staff. The system helps in the completion of medical procedures at a faster pace.
Electronic Health Record (EHR)
The Electronic Health Record (EHR) is a repository of details of the patient. Along with textual information, images are also maintained with the help of this system. The details of patients can be easily accessed through the Electronic Health Record (EHR).
Clinical Decision Support System (CDSS)
The CDSS assists medical practitioners in the decision-making process by linking ‘health knowledge’ with ‘health observations’. The system proves to be of great help in the process of diagnosis because it provides information about patients to the physician, at the point of care. The CDSS also provides medical practitioners with information related to complex clinical pathways.
Radio-frequency identification Technology (RFID)
In the healthcare sector, the RFID is widely used in hospitals. RFID is basically a tagging system. Tags can be identified remotely with the help of radio transmissions. Patient identification is one of the most important RFID applications. In addition, pharmaceuticals, lab samples, medical equipment can be traced though RFID. In 2004, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of RFID chips in humans.
Electronic Materials Management (EMM)
It is a system which helps in managing the supplies needed in a hospital setting. The system is also used in fields other than healthcare.
The healthcare sector has largely benefited from the advancements in technology. Artificial organs have brought about a huge change in the medical technology industry by not only sustaining the life of patients, but also restoring specific body functions in the disabled; mobile applications facilitate the easy flow of information from doctors to patients; devices like oximeters have allowed to make smart use of cell phones. Therefore, we can say that technology has greatly improved the quality of our life.