The health care industry is far different from what it was just ten years ago, and it will see additional changes in the next decade as well. Not only have health care and insurance laws changed, the way physicians practice medicine is evolving. Computing hardware and Internet-based technology have advanced to the point where doctors can diagnose and treat patients faster and at a lower cost. Value through technology has become the name of the game.
We take for granted that we carry advanced technology with us every day. Our smartphones are capable of more than some of the first bulky computers were, and they’re small enough to fit in our pockets. Doctors are no less attached to their cell phones than their patients, so it should be no surprise that medical technology is becoming smaller and iOS or Android compatible.
There are now smartphone-connected ultrasounds, 6-lead ECGs, infection diagnosis tools and glucose monitors. Over time, more diagnostic tools will simply hook into a physician’s phone. Tools either have or will soon shrink from large pieces of equipment that take up considerable space in medical offices to something that can fit into a drawer and be quickly accessed when needed.
Managing diabetes requires constant vigilance over a patient’s diet, blood sugar and insulin doses. In the past, patients have had to routinely prick their fingers to draw blood for a test. This is painful and irritating, which can make younger or more frustrated patients less apt to monitor their blood sugar.
Fortunately, technology is making diabetes management pain-free and more reliable. There are now glucose monitors that patients can hook up to their smartphones or smart watches – and more are coming. These devices monitor blood sugar through skin contact and can update a patient’s phone every five minutes. The program can sound an alarm if his or her blood sugar gets too high or low. In combination with insulin pumps, these devices can give patients more consistent blood sugar, which reduces the risk of diabetes complications.
The benefits of 3-D printing in the health care industry are immeasurable. This technology allows for low-cost but strong prosthetics to be made for individuals with missing extremities. The value of lowering the cost of prosthetics can’t be overstated, particularly with the number of service members who require an artificial arm or leg to get back to a normal life. Lower cost instruments also enable children to upgrade their prosthetics as they grow.
But 3-D printing is doing even more than limb prosthetics. It’s also used for custom casts for broken bones, back braces for scoliosis, teeth realignment, facial prosthetics and hearing aids. In fact, 95 percent of hearing aids made today are manufactured using 3-D printing, according to Forbes.
Technology has advanced to the point that patients don’t need to be in the same room as their doctors to get help. Doctor on Demand is just one example of how physicians can videoconference with patients over the Internet to diagnose and treat illnesses.
This advancement allows for more people to get consistent and high-quality medical treatment. Before this option, people in rural areas may not have been able to reach a doctor without traveling a long distance. It’s also far more convenient for people who can’t get time off work or find childcare to get to the doctor’s office.
Major health insurance company UnitedHealthcare uses Doctor on Demand as a tele-health provider. After 6 months of data the insurer found most video visits were for respiratory issues, according to MobiHealthNews. The insurer is expecting 20 million tele-health users by the end of 2016.
Robots aren’t taking over, but they are becoming helpful for physicians and patients. In addition to video conferencing between patients at home and physicians at their offices, now robots are going to be able to make rounds at the hospital, checking on individual patients’ vital signs and managing charts. If a physician is necessary, there is a two-way video capability to connect patients with doctors. Doctors and nurses have a lot on their plates, and technology like this can make health care considerably more efficient.
There’s an app for everything. Physicians can now join health care professional-only apps that help them diagnose patients, connect with other physicians and look for jobs. For example, Figure1 enables health care providers and medical students to upload photos and symptom information to solve difficult patient cases. The patient information is anonymous, but other medical experts can take a look and help a physician find the correct diagnosis.
These types of apps are consistent with HIPAA regulations, ensuring that patient data is confidential and that health care professionals don’t accidentally violate the law. They give doctors an environment to consult with professionals who may have the different backgrounds and expertise that a patient needs without sending the individual across the country for consultations.
At Advanced Medical Reviews (AMR), an independent review organization, their robust and proprietary technology platform allows licensed physician reviewers to conduct independent medical reviews through an efficient, confidential and intuitive process. As Vince Bianco, President of AMR, explains, “Our HIPAA- compliant and secure platform technology was designed to promote operational efficiencies. Submitting, tracking and reporting on reviews of all types is simple and easy. Technology has transformed the independent medical review (IMR) industry by allowing physicians to customize their workflows and complete IMRs in record time.”
The future is here, and physicians are embracing its technology. Whether it’s robotics, video doctor’s visits or improved blood sugar monitors, technology has the ability to enable physicians to offer more individuals consistent, valuable health care, ultimately reducing the risks of illness or complications.