Three Ways Technology is Changing Healthcare

Healthcare has always depended on technology in certain respects. Even the earliest medical tools, such as clamps and scalpels, were innovative and cutting edge during their time. Today’s technology continues to shape how we operate on or treat the sick and injured. Innovations such as nanotechnology, robotics, virtual reality, 3D printing, and artificial intelligence have provided fertile grounds for advancements in healing and prolonging as well as improving the quality of human life.

Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence, or AI, has seen a momentous uptick in popularity and interest in recent years, even beyond healthcare. Dystopian fantasies fascinated with the concept of a world takeover by an all-knowing computer system seem especially prevalent. But the truth is: AI’s practical applications have proven to be useful in many fields, including healthcare. For example, AI algorithms are able to mine patient records, determine optimal treatment strategies based on data, and even create chemicals and drugs faster than their human counterparts. In 2015, misdiagnosing illness and medical errors accounted for 10% of all U.S. deaths. AI could help improve the diagnostic process and lower this statistic in the future. AI has the capability to diagnose diseases at a faster rate than most medical professionals. For example, in one study, an AI model used algorithms and deep learning to diagnose breast cancer at a higher rate than 11 pathologists. These computer processes can, therefore, lead to faster detection and more dependable results, and even alert physicians to potential danger signs or symptoms.

Robotics and Automation
Consider the perfect surgeon. What would be the ideal characteristics of such a person? Disciplined, knowledgeable, and untiring would probably be characteristics that rank at the top. Perhaps the perfect surgeon isn’t a person after all. Robotic surgeons are already present at numerous hospitals around the world, performing the most intricate tasks with absolute precision. Some of these robotic systems are so intricate that it simply takes software programs to initiate the necessary procedure, and humans would only have to offer a secondary, supervisory role. Recently, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Carnegie Mellon University each received four-year contracts totaling more than $7.2 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to create an autonomous trauma care system that fits in a backpack and can treat and stabilize soldiers injured in remote locations. These technologies promise precision, accuracy, and results that can be dependably replicated.

Virtual Reality
The goal of virtual reality (VR) in healthcare is to create a new kind of healing environment for patients. VR is an interactive and immersive experience that can be used to transport patients to a place beyond the clinical setting. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, autism spectrum disorder has been identified in about 1 in 59 children. This corresponds to approximately 3.5 million Americans. Even though there is no cure at the moment, language and speech therapy can improve an individual’s communication and social skills. A company known as Floreo has devised a virtual reality simulation that creates a calming environment for children to practice social interactions from their homes. Parents can even adjust the complexity of the simulation and tailor the virtual environments for their children. VR has also been effective in other healthcare areas as well, such as speeding up the recovery following traumatic brain injuries, restoring low vision, and even reducing chronic pain by alleviating stress.

The promise of improved technology in the healthcare sector is of vital importance to all of us seeking to live fuller, healthier, and longer lives. Technology is enabling physicians to not only diagnose disease and physical conditions much earlier but to treat them with more accuracy and speed.

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