Technology is evolving fast leaving fingerprints on every industry, and healthcare is one field that has seen a huge improvement from continuous technological developments. Advancement in technology is saving many lives and improving the quality of life of many patients. Physicians can now better diagnose as well as treat patients, thanks to technological innovations in the medical field. Having said that, let’s examine how technological innovations are benefiting the healthcare sector and the disadvantages that come with such developments.
Digitizing Health Records
The use of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) has replaced paper records making it easier to store and access patients’ data and information. Many allied healthcare roles have been positively impacted by the implementation of EHRs including medical billing professionals, medical coding professionals, health information technicians, and medical assistants.
Technicians and nurses can now input patient data like weight, vital signs, test results, and other information into a centralized digital system. Regarding administration, medical coders and billers are utilizing EHRs to schedule appointments and update patients’ records using diagnostic codes, needless to mention the submission of medical claims.
EHRs have enhanced patient care in various ways. The technology can help alert a physician treating a patient about potential issues like intolerance and allergy to certain medications. EHR technology can be accessed in different medical facilities making it easy for doctors to access the medical history of their patients something that proves very important in the event that a patient is unconscious.
EHRs also provide valuable data that helps clinical researchers to advance their medical knowledge and develop a new treatment for common and rare medical conditions and disorders. Besides, having a centralized and standardized system within the healthcare industry helps identify bacterial and viral infections fast. Healthcare professionals can easily find out how widespread outbreaks are thus ensuring preventive measures are taken quickly to contain the outbreaks.
Electronic Health Records allow ease of workflow. Improvement in medical billing and coding is something that has seen medical codes increase from 13,600 to about 69,000. Having data entered into a digitized system consumes less time compared to paper-based data feeds. It also reduces the chances of errors occurring in not only patient data but also financial details.
A University of Michigan study has shown that shifting from paper to digitized health records can reduce the cost incurred in outpatient by about 3 percent translating to about $5.14 in savings for every patient every month.
Cloud Computing and Big Data
Healthcare deals with the public, and essentially, a large amount of data is collected and stored. Big Data is a term used to refer to the huge amounts of data that is gathered from different sources and processed before it is used for analytics. Analysis of Big Data by experts offers many benefits including:
- Improved quality of life
- Predicting epidemics
- Reducing healthcare costs
- Avoiding preventable deaths
- Developing new medicines and treatments
- Improving efficiency in healthcare and enhancing the quality of care
- Reducing wastage in healthcare
Research studies can comprise huge data that would take up terabytes of space. Having cost-effective, expandable, and safe storage of such data is very important, and that’s where The Cloud takes a huge role.
Cloud computing is an essential innovation in healthcare technology. The Cloud provides software and hardware resources that offer services through the internet. Healthcare professionals, as well as patients, can access the data stored in The Cloud from different internet-enabled devices. Using Cloud computing helps store loads of information at low costs without encountering expenses or limitations arising from the need for additional servers or hardware.
The Cloud helps protect data and reduce the chances of losing sensitive information through strong backup resources and enhanced recovery services.
The Cloud not only offers an essential tool for medical research but also helps share medical information easily. A survey that involved 105 IT professionals in the healthcare industry showed that 59 percent were using or planning to utilize The Cloud to analyze data. More than 75 percent said they planned or were using the cloud for the exchange of health information. The sharing of medical research information and data has helped in developing life-saving drugs.
Information and Communication
Technology has transformed the communication process in healthcare. About 270 million people in America own a mobile phone, which means that accessing information on the go is made easier. Information and communication technology (ICT) connects patients with healthcare professionals. In remote areas where facilities lack or there are no specialist services, people can access healthcare services via mobile devices.
For example, doctors can make follow-ups with patients to see how they are responding to treatment. Addicts recovering from drug abuse can get support from rehab centers and other professionals including 12 steps program. Rehab treatment centers can guide recovering addicts on their treatment using telehealth. They can also monitor the progress of the recovering addicts through telemonitoring systems.
Patients can also reach out to doctors online to talk about their health problems. Smartphones, telemedicine, webcam, email, and the telemonitoring system can be used to share information. These systems are used in diagnosis, education, management, counseling, and support.
Through telemedicine or telehealth, patients can consult their doctors through two-way video communication. They can also transmit healthcare data such as electrocardiograms (ECGs). Telemonitoring systems help monitor vital symptoms and signs remotely. In the future, remote ultrasound technology will help in diagnosing patients.
Telehealth offers many benefits including improved access to remote areas, increased efficiency that leads to savings, and reduced wait times for patients. About 80 percent of physicians and medical professionals use mobile devices as well as medical apps. Approximately 25 percent use these devices and apps to provide patient care.
The use of mobile equipment and gadgets like smartphones allows medical practitioners to attempt tasks in remote locations. A physician, for example, can use a smartphone to access EHR of the patient, send follow-up emails, review medical histories, and complete prescriptions.
Mobile apps in healthcare are growing fast with about 100,000 health apps being available today. The use of mobile health apps ensures flexibility among patients, administrators, and professionals. The apps form an inexpensive way of providing high-quality healthcare services and patients find them to be cheaper to access. Healthcare apps help enhance health awareness and assist communication between care providers and patients. The medical health apps can help with:
- Chronic care management
- Medical reference
- Medication management
- Mental health
- Fitness and weight loss
- Women’s health
- Personal health records
Any Risks Linked to Medical Technology?
Although there are many benefits of utilizing technology in healthcare, there are still issues of concern that need to be addressed. Having centralized data points for data is very important, over-dependence on cloud computing can pose a risk in the event that information becomes unavailable due to emergencies. Connectivity and bandwidth issues can arise resulting in serious problems if everything needed has to be retrieved online.
Security and breach of data are the main concerns when it comes to using the Cloud in the storage of data. In 2015, hackers stole information for about 80 million customers and employees of Anthem Health Insurance Company. Although only addresses and names were stolen with no details of treatment and illnesses exposed, there are concerns because such information could be used maliciously.
For example, the information can be used to create counterfeit IDs that can, in turn, be used to purchase drugs and medical equipment. Fake IDs can also be used to make false insurance claims.
The Bottom Line
The benefits of healthcare technology outweigh the disadvantages. Technological developments in healthcare will continue to change the experience of patients and improve health processes as well as practices.