Technology has changed every aspect of human existence, including healthcare. From writing prescriptions with quills and ink to maintaining detailed patient databases, healthcare technology has become essential to delivering effective and efficient medical care.  

Healthcare technology ensures accurate and up-to-date information, streamlines processes, and improves patient outcomes. The transformation is not just about replacing paper with screens. It’s about creating a seamless healthcare experience that embraces technology to enhance the quality of care provided to individuals and communities alike.

Join us as we explore how healthcare technology brings the best of medicine and modern tech together.

Evolution of Technology in Healthcare

Though scalpels and tools to reset broken bones were used in ancient Roman times, modern hospital technology sees its origins as far back as the 1800s. Some of the notable tools and devices from that era to now include:

  • The stethoscope was first introduced in 1816.
  • X-ray machines were based on Wilheim Conrad Roentgen’s discoveries in 1895.  
  • The electrocardiogram was invented in 1903 by Dr. Willem Einthoven. 
  • Modern electronic health records (EHR) are traced to the formation of the Association of Record Librarians of North America, or ARLNA, in 1928.
  • Dr. Willem Kolff’s first dialysis machine was used in 1943. 
  • The implantation of the first cardiac pacemaker in a patient was in 1958.
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was developed in 1960. 
  • The first commercial CT scanner was by Dr. Godfrey Hounsfield in 1971. 
  • The MRI scanner was traced to Dr. Raymond Damadian’s work on magnetic resonance in the late 1970s.
  • The Human Genome Project was completed in 2003.

Current Landscape of Technology in Healthcare

The 20th century has witnessed many genuinely revolutionary advances in the healthcare industry. Many result from digital transformation or the use of digital technologies like medical computers and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). Today, we’ll cover four advances – electronic health records, telemedicine and remote patient monitoring, wearables, and artificial intelligence. 

Electronic health records

Medical staff originally wrote patients’ medical histories on paper and filed them in storage boxes and cabinets. Electronic health records are a digital version of those histories.

The Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic is credited with being the first major medical group to use EHR in the 1960s. By 2013, about 80 percent of hospitals had switched to some form of digital health system. 

The first EHRs were primarily used for billing and scheduling. Their scope has expanded considerably. Now they can:

  • Provide accurate, up-to-date, and complete patient information at the point of care, such as at a patient’s bedside. 
  • Reduce expenses by minimizing paperwork and lowering the likelihood of duplicate records.
  • Share information securely without the hassle of making and sending copies, reading over the telephone, or by fax. 
  • Prescribe medication securely and reliably (e.g., no more handwritten slips). 
  • Protect patient data through encryption and secure cloud storage. 

These advantages are some of the reasons why medical clinics, hospitals, and healthcare technology companies work to overcome the technology’s challenges, namely:

  • Lack of interoperability, or when different EMR (electronic medical records) systems cannot communicate, exchange, or understand each other. Solutions range from standardizing one EMR system throughout the organization to using third-party health information exchanges and connectors.
  • Vulnerability to data security attacks and breaches from numerous bad actors. Patient medical records are quite valuable due to the sensitive information they contain. They are also difficult to handle, as providers need the data to treat the patient. To meet this challenge, healthcare systems deploy various security measures like equipping medical tablets with RFID identification and Imprivata Single Sign-On. 

Telemedicine and remote patient monitoring

Modern telemedicine has been around since the late 40s and early 50s. The practice became especially prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic, where remote distancing and physical separation were paramount to protecting healthcare workers and patients. Because of its performance during that time, telemedicine has become a staple in today’s healthcare. 

Notable advantages of the technology include:   

  • Seeing patients in rural and out-of-way places without visiting providers’ offices. Avel eCare, for example, provides telemedicine and other forms of virtual care services to diabetic students living across various states.
  • Connecting older people and the infirm for non-emergency treatment while they remain in residence.
  • Increasing collaboration between providers and other medical professionals, even if separated by distance.
  • Enabling surgeons to perform robotic-assisted surgeries remotely.
  • Protecting patients and medical staff from highly contagious pathogens like during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Training numerous medical students and other medical personnel simultaneously. 

Remote patient monitoring, or RPM, is a part of telemedicine. As its name implies, the branch allows continuous, real-time remote monitoring of patients by healthcare professionals. 

RPM has proven to be a boon to certain forms of medical treatment, like chronic disease management. 

Patients suffering from chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, or cancer no longer have to make frequent trips to a medical office or hospital to assess their condition. Instead, providers keep tabs on their conditions from a distance through medical devices like blood pressure monitors, blood glucose meters, pulse oximeters, and weighing scales. 

All patient vitals are transmitted to the provider via Wi-Fi or IoMT, who can adjust treatment accordingly to improve the patient experience. Thanks to RPM, staff can react quickly to emergencies like heart attacks. 

Wearable health technology

Wearable health technology (or simply wearables) is a relative newcomer to the healthcare sector. Like RPM devices, consumers primarily use wearables to manage fitness and health goals.

Wearables are commonly used to:

  • Help users monitor their heart rates to hit peak efficiency during a jog or run.
  • Count the number of steps done throughout the day to maintain or lose weight.
  • Track one’s sleep cycle to ensure getting the right amount of sleep. 
  • Blow cool air if body temperature rises too fast or too high for comfort.
  • Keep track of the mother or baby’s heart rate for abnormalities during pregnancy.

Wearable technology’s impact on healthcare allows more significant opportunities to gather health information once only done at a provider’s office or lab. It also encourages patients to take a more proactive role in their health, which reduces costs and patient load for healthcare systems. 

Richard Milani, MD and chief clinical transformation officer at Ochsner Health, points out: “More and more health data that previously required collection in the doctor’s office can now be reliably collected at home.” 

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) and its numerous branches (machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, etc.) will play an increasingly important role among healthcare organizations. AI’s ability to handle large datasets (“big data”) from EMR, patient vitals, and other sources makes it ideal to handle numerous medical applications like:

  • Diagnostics. AI can sort and organize data far faster than humans, looking for specific information from medical images like tumor masses. This saves providers valuable time, which they can use to diagnose their patients better.
  • Predictive analytics. Figuring out a disease’s progression over months to a new drug’s side effects is possible through AI’s ability to process patterns in medical data and predict a likely outcome. 
  • Robotic surgery. AI in healthcare can be used in all three stages of surgery to help ensure a better outcome. For example, abnormalities in the patient can be pointed out to surgeons before surgery. Or the AI can determine when the patient has recovered enough to leave the ICU. 

Challenges and Ethical Considerations

Technology in healthcare brings enormous benefits — and challenges — to medical organizations, personnel and patients. While some are easily dealt with given enough time and training (e.g., switching from paper charts to tablets), others are more difficult and require additional finesse. These include:

Data Security and Privacy 

The healthcare sector is highly regulated. Patient health information (PHI), especially, is protected through HIPAA. At the same time, PHI is highly sought by malicious actors due to its high value on the black market. 

Given these constraints, healthcare IT needs to protect the information and test results, as well as medical computers and networks in general, through various practices, from cybersecurity to AI. 

Integration Challenges

Hospitals are filled with medical devices and equipment no longer supported by their manufacturer. Such legacy applications may not be compatible with more modern equipment, causing stress to the staff as they scramble to use both. Hardware with legacy ports, like medical-grade computers, can help resolve the situation. 

Ethical Implications of AI

The power of artificial intelligence has people concerned about its use (and misuse). Many AI conclusions are only sometimes understandable by users, for example. This makes backtracking nearly impossible, which is essential in medicine (e.g., a mental health issue caused by a disease versus PTSD requires very different medical treatments.) 

AI decisions are also based on its dataset — biased information can affect its conclusions. It is the same with “hallucinations,” in which the AI presents non-existent information. The solution is that providers and other medical personnel must be vigilant with their AI-powered tools. 

Future Trends in Healthcare Technology

The four technologies discussed above are barely the tip of the iceberg. Just as the stethoscope and EMR changed patient care forever, so too are upcoming technologies like:

  • 3-D printing, in which body parts, from new joints to even organs, are custom-made to match the patient-specific condition. 
  • AR/VR. Augmented and virtual reality can be used for various purposes, from keeping hospice patients calm to training future surgeons on virtual bodies.
  • Geospatial technology taps a particular area’s economic and social data (e.g., lower income area) so providers can customize treatment for those living there. 
  • Social media monitoring mines public networks like Twitter for disease activities like increased flu reports.
  • Vocal biomarkers can diagnose patients for conditions like COVID-19 and heart attacks by the sound of their voice.     

It All Begins and Ends With the Right Medical Computers

Technology has transformed people’s lives, from how they travel to how they make a living. For technology in healthcare, many of these transformations are digital as medical groups turn to computers and the Internet of Medical Things in caring for patients. 

Does your healthcare organization want to maximize its current and even future technological assets? Or is it looking for ways to reduce costs and errors or find better ways to reach more patients?

Contact an expert at Cybernet Manufacturing. We will be happy to review the benefits of various technologies for your medical clinic, hospital, or healthcare facility. We will address how our medical-grade computers and tablets can help handle processes ranging from patient EMR systems to housing your latest AI-driven medical device. 

We will also address challenges like compatibility with possible solutions (e.g., legacy ports). 

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