4 Technologies Transforming the Healthcare Industry
It likely comes as no surprise, but at Aria Communications, we’re fans of technology. While science and technology have been a staple punching bag for dystopic science fiction novels and gothic horror films from their beginning, we see the implications of innovation as being the greatest hope for improving the human condition. Nowhere are these implications more impactful than in healthcare. Improving the length and quality of life has been a pillar of British civilization since the dawn of the modern age, and we like to think that we’re part of that process – providing video conferencing services to healthcare institutions. Look at some of the other amazing ways technology is transforming healthcare.
For several decades, Electronic Health Records have been kept on local databases for ease of storage and mobility. It’s difficult to overstate the impact of this technology! Sharing patient information between hospitals and clinics can aid in the early detection of disease and improve healthcare outcomes. Modern technologies are allowing for cloud-based alternatives to the local model, which solves problems related to migration, extraction, and security of patient data – something that aging systems are notoriously bad at. Some innovation in this area has been stifled by bureaucracy. According to Checkpoint, ‘At present, EHR systems [in the United States] are not directly regulated by the government, although some people are calling for legislation to change this. However, EHR systems are not exempt from complying with certain laws.’ In the UK, these laws include the National Programme for Information Technology, which establishes a central service for regulating and distributing these records. A top-down, government-centered approach to managing records is bound to be slow to respond to innovation, but despite such hurdles, we expect to see cloud-based systems becoming the industry norm in the coming decade.
Groundbreaking Cancer Treatments
Until very recently, cancer therapies basically boiled down to three strategies: surgery (cut it out), radiation therapy (nuke it out), and chemotherapy (poison it out). Surgery is really good at removing large, local tumors, but very bad at preventing new growths elsewhere in the body (in fact, there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that biopsies and other surgeries dislodge cancer cells and lead to increased spreading of the disease). The problem with radiation and chemo is that they are as damaging to natural tissue cells in your body as they are to cancerous growths. Undergoing either one of these therapies is a miserable undertaking, with mixed results.
Enter targeted cancer therapies and immunotherapy. These treatments target specific chemicals or genetic profiles unique to cancer cells, preventing new growth and even destroying existing cells. According to MacMillan, targeted cancer therapy ‘interfere with the development of blood vessels. This means that the cancer is unable to receive the oxygen and nutrients it needs to survive.’ Similarly, immunotherapy uses drugs that target genetic markers specific to cancer cells, and allow the body’s natural immune system to treat them like a pathogen. The first of these revolutionary drugs was recently approved in the United States, and the UK approved it shortly thereafter. The technology is still in its infancy, but these strategies, along with improvements in early detection and screening, could potentially be the real-world cure for cancer!
Mobile technology has already transformed the way we interact with each other, conduct business, consume entertainment, and learn about our world. Now, mobile is threatening to take over the healthcare industry, as well. Twi years ago, the Washington Post released a story of a dongle that can be attached to your mobile, which can perform a blood test in the comfort of your own home. The device in question has received mixed results at best, but it is indicative of the radical possibilities of personalizing, decentralizing, and increasing the efficiency of healthcare. Financial Times Magazine even predicts that in the near future, most consultations with physicians will happen over mobile networks, with artificial intelligence systems doing the diagnosis heavy-lifting. That sentence would have sounded like science fiction a decade ago, but today is almost too obvious to be uttered aloud.
One of the hazards of working in healthcare is the often overcrowded, disorganized, and frustrating environments of hospitals and some clinics. Obviously, these institutions will always need to be staffed by expertly-trained nurses and physicians. But a surprising number of workers in the healthcare industry are neither. There are billing accountants, insurance account managers, marketing specialists, compliance departments and more. Innovations in video conferencing and telecommuting in healthcare have enabled many of these teams to move off-site, freeing up space for patients. Video conferencing in healthcare also enables management to operate multiple sites simultaneously, increasing the efficiency and ease of access to the entire industry.
The famous saying goes “It is easy to predict the future; it’s getting it right that’s the hard part.” Certainly this principle is true in the world of technology. Today we’re talking about video conferencing in healthcare; a decade from now we could be talking about quantum computing, neural networking, or any number of new frontiers in technology. We hope to ride the wave as innovation continues to transform our world.