If you’re in an older generation, you might have looked on in astonishment in the last several decades at the leaps and bounds that medical technology has taken. From the infancy of modern medicine only a century ago, not many could have foreseen what medical care would look like in 2020. Likewise, it is equally difficult for the average person to imagine how far progress can take us as we move forward.
Here are a few of the most impressive ways that technology has revolutionized medicine in the information age.
Telehealth refers to the use of telecommunication (mainly the internet) technology to deliver healthcare to people who cannot access care in more conventional ways. Examples of telehealth include virtual conferencing with doctors and nurses using video chat services like Skype, online support groups for patients battling specific conditions and diseases such as diabetes or cancer, and remote monitoring of blood sugar, heart rate, blood pressure, and other vital measurements. Doctors can now access this crucial information instantaneously, even when a patient is miles away, to check on their health, eliminating the need for travel.
Telehealth has been a godsend for rural and elderly populations in particular. In many rural areas of America, there is no hospital or clinic within a hundred miles or more of a home, making it time-consuming and costly to travel to the doctor’s office. Elderly people often struggle with the challenge of limited mobility combined with the need to frequently see the doctor, so the value of being able to consult with their primary care physician and nurses via the internet cannot be understated.
Telehealth is a fascinating trend in the medical industry, and more applications of this technology are being developed by the month. Study after study has shown the health improvements in patients who take advantage of the new healthcare options presented by telehealth.
In addition to the tangible benefits to patients’ health, telehealth also generates substantial savings in healthcare deliver – over a billion dollars in the UK alone. Skyrocketing healthcare costs are a major concern for policymakers and public health officials across the globe.
The 5G Revolution
5G, of fifth-generation internet, is orders of magnitude faster than its 4G predecessor. It’s so fast, in fact, that surgeons in China recently successfully conducted surgery remotely using 5G internet connection to work on a Parkinson’s patient from nearly 2,000 miles away. The rapid connection of 5G internet is so fast that it mimics real-life interactions, making remote surgery akin to surgery involving direct contact. Scientists have just begun to scratch the surface of the applications of 5G technology, so look out for more in the coming years.
Apps like Uber and Snapchat usually get all the spotlight while medical apps that truly make a difference often go underappreciated. Apps have taken over many of the monotonous tasks that take up physicians’ time, freeing them to concentrate more on delivering care in their face-to-face interactions with patients. Virtually every basic health measurement can be taken using a smartphone of “smartwatch” these days, including measuring vital signs. In addition, these devices can record data over long periods of time – important for studying chronic conditions like heart disease. Fitness apps are popular as well, allowing people to plan their workouts and track their progress by measuring heart rate and calories burned. Other apps help patients taking multiple medicines to plan their drug-taking routines to avoid missing dosages. Diet apps help with meal planning and tracking calories consumed, making healthy eating that much easier in the 21st century.
As we move beyond 2020, the advances we’ve made so far in the last hundred years might seem tiny compared to what we will be able to accomplish in the future, including AI surgery, complete bio-mapping of individual patients at little cost, and more