Articles

How Far a Reach Does Technology have on Healthcare?

Given the progress technology has made, it comes as no surprise that the same can be leveraged to improve the functioning of the healthcare industry. The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to connect people with innovations that make communicating across the globe faster and easier using latest technologies. However, this has also brought to light the fallacies that exist in the system, and enhancements that could be implemented through technology.

With government funding for patient care and healthcare at an all-time low, many private companies are looking to step forward and take initiative. What encourages these enterprises to move forward is sheer research. The combination of data analysis and algorithms executed provides solutions for behaviour and medical research, thus delivering hope for the future.

As a result, some technologies are fast gaining ground in the medical. Studies show that the most people like to monitor their stress levels closely. Wearable technology/devices helps people keep a track of their heart rate, blood pressure, brain activity, galvanic skin responses so they can lead a stress-free life. The same wearable devices can also be used to measure several other factors, such as water intake, calorie intake, calories burnt during the day, and more. By providing consumers with all this information, technology is helping them keep track of their fitness levels.

A futuristic and upcoming variation of this, known as Behavioural Integration Technologies (BITs), integrates numerous technologies including mobile phones, web services, and sensors to positively change behaviours and cognitions related to physiological health, mental health, and wellness. Although the use of sensors in this field has been limited, their popularity is rising. Recent advancements illustrate how sensors can be used in ‘smart gowns’ to help track patients who are situated in high-restriction facilities such as old age care centres for those with dementia. Similarly, sensors could also be used for medical care staff on the ground. With the use of information laden sensors, hospitals could track and assign staff to cases based on skill, knowledge and availability. This would ensure ease in operations, especially in high-activity scenarios, such as emergency care or night shifts. This would also provide stakeholders in the healthcare industry with valuable insight.

BITs have also changed patient experience by using Electronic Health Records (EHRs). Vital information on each patient is stored on a digital portal, which acts as an online resource. This portal is easily accessible to members of the care team, so they know the patient’s case history, insurance coverage, and medication without the hassle of paper. Such an integration between IoT and healthcare changes the game; bettering coordination at every stage of patient care, for both family members and medical teams.

Yet another targeted area of application for IoT is mental health. Telemental health is becoming extremely popular, more so to help people overcome stigma and shame associated with seeking help for psychiatric and psychological problems. Telemental healthcare works best for those who have limited access to such facilities. A study found that the establishment of telemental health services in rural areas considerably decreased hospitalisation rates for psychiatric or psychological reasons. While this signals a definite improvement in patient experience, there were several challenges medical and care teams could face – the inability to read non-verbal cues, technical difficulties, a lack of training amongst medical care providers, legal issues including privacy and security, reimbursement, follow-up care, and emergency care.

This progress is not restricted to patient care and experience. Technology-driven optimisation can change the way resources in the medical field are used – primarily the under and over utilisation of medical equipment. Incompetence in tracking crucial, and even limited resources can have severe consequences. However, since technology has already solved such issues in logistics, there is a high probability that such solutions could be implemented in the medical field, too. Moreover, such features could help in maintenance and repair, allowing administrative teams to monitor equipment that is currently under upkeep and helping them deliver more value over a longer period of time.

With many of these progressive technologies still under research and development, let’s hope health and patience care will only change for the better.