Medicine has progressed immensely in the past few decades — and it’s not showing signs of slowing down. From mRNA vaccines to CRISPR or other technologies, scientists are constantly inventing new tools to keep diseases at bay and improve our health. Digital health technologies, ranging from wearable fitness trackers to sophisticated telemedicine platforms, are another area transforming healthcare.
Sure, it’s more prosaic and not as flashy as some medical treatments, but it can be just as important. In fact, digital technologies are already saving lives today.
Table of contents
- 1 Proactive Intervention in Detecting and Treating Diseases
- 2 Telemedicine: Healthcare at Your Fingertips
- 3 Detailed Review of a Patient’s Medication and Health History
- 4 Wearables: More Than Just Step Counters
- 5 Better Visualization of Patient Anatomy and Pathology
- 6 Artificial Intelligence: The Smart Future of Healthcare
Proactive Intervention in Detecting and Treating Diseases
Prompt diagnosis and treatment are critical in medical emergencies, as they greatly impact the patient’s likelihood of recovery. Unfortunately, medical errors are a serious public health concern and a significant contributing factor in fatalities in the US.
An estimated 40,000 to 80,000 patients are killed or injured every year due to diagnostic errors. Moreover, the third most prevalent error is delaying treatment after the diagnosis. Medical errors can occur at any phase of patient care and in various healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, medical offices, and surgery centers. But thanks to massive healthcare digitization, we’re witnessing a fundamental change in preventing, treating, and managing medical conditions.
The connection between digital health technologies and patient safety is an impactful one. Digital health technologies increase healthcare providers’ capacity to detect and treat diseases promptly. For instance, electronic health records (EHRs) provide reliable, real-time access to patients’ complete health information, allowing medical providers to diagnose problems sooner. Accurate and prompt diagnosis is critical since it’s the foundation of any successful treatment.
Likewise, faster emergency response is made possible by telemedicine. Being one of the most critical and sensitive sections of the hospital, how the emergency departments function significantly impacts monitoring and saving lives.
Telemedicine: Healthcare at Your Fingertips
Gone are the days when seeing a doctor always meant traveling to a clinic. Telemedicine has demolished geographical and accessibility barriers, bringing medical consultation to anyone with an internet connection. This is especially crucial for people in remote areas or those with mobility issues. By enabling consultations, diagnoses, and even treatment plans over video calls, telemedicine is not just convenient; it’s life-changing.
Telemedicine allows medical practitioners to assess if a patient is experiencing a medical emergency that requires immediate in-person evaluation. In cardiovascular disease centers, the store and forward technique supports stroke patients before they arrive at the hospital.
That involves collecting and transmitting medical data to a central hub for review and analysis. Video conferencing also helps expedite stroke care by creating a seamless real-time interaction between a medical specialist, patient, ambulance, and emergency room.
Detailed Review of a Patient’s Medication and Health History
Medication errors constitute one of the most prevalent forms of medical error observed in healthcare settings. Prescribing errors, improper doses and drugs, and failure to identify contraindications are common medication errors. They can cause serious harm, prolonged hospitalization, or death.
The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that medication errors lead to approximately one death per 1 million individuals. In the US, this equates to around 60,000 to 131,000 yearly fatalities.
However, with the drug-utilized review system, medical providers can significantly minimize medication-related errors and adverse events. Before potential medication errors reach patients, pharmacists can perform online drug utilization reviews (DUR) using electronic prescription records.
The technology allows them to review a patient’s medication and healthy history before, during, and after dispensing. Consequently, there’s greater accuracy that prescriptions for outpatient drugs are appropriate, medically required, and unlikely to result in adverse medical outcomes.
Wearables: More Than Just Step Counters
You’ve seen them on wrists everywhere – smartwatches and fitness trackers. But they’re more than just gadgets for counting steps or monitoring sleep patterns. These devices have evolved into sophisticated health monitoring tools. For instance, some can now detect irregular heart rhythms or measure blood oxygen levels – crucial for patients with heart conditions or respiratory issues. By providing real-time data, these wearables enable early intervention, potentially preventing severe health crises.
They can even detect things like overdoses or diabetes. They may even highlight incipient health problems, encouraging early intervention, where you can address a potential condition before it does any damage.
Better Visualization of Patient Anatomy and Pathology
Surgical errors can result in several negative outcomes for patients. However, reportable events in 2015 found one case of wrong-site surgery per 100,000 surgical procedures performed in the US.
Thankfully, new advancements in visualization technology are helping surgeons prepare for procedures and treat patients with better precision. Surgeons no longer depend on paper-thin images to develop surgical plans for complex operations involving the kidney, heart, and other organs.
By utilizing 3D-printed models, surgeons can better visualize and understand the structure of the patient’s body, allowing them to detect potential complications. As a result, they can create a plan for surgery that reduces the risk of complications.
Artificial Intelligence: The Smart Future of Healthcare
Artificial Intelligence (AI) in healthcare is a game-changer. AI algorithms can analyze vast amounts of medical data, aiding in early diagnosis and treatment planning. For instance, AI-driven imaging tools can detect abnormalities in X-rays or MRIs more accurately and quickly than the human eye. This precision leads to early intervention, which can be life-saving in cases like cancer.
AI also plays a pivotal role in personalizing medical treatment. By analyzing a patient’s genetic makeup, lifestyle, and environmental factors, AI can recommend the most effective treatment plans. This personalized approach not only improves outcomes but also minimizes the risk of adverse reactions.
As we move forward, the integration of these technologies in healthcare is likely to continue expanding, fundamentally altering the landscape of medical practice and patient care. The future of medicine is not just about new drugs or surgical techniques; it’s increasingly about harnessing the power of digital innovation to enhance diagnostics, treatment, and prevention.