In the recently published SAHARA study, researchers found that a digital health intervention using messaging targeted at lifestyle modification failed to reduce heart attack risk among South Asian adults.
While tremendous progress has been made in treatment of coronary artery disease, it’s now well recognized that we’ve fallen short in primary prevention. When working with a patient, primary prevention starts with understanding their risk. In the US, recent guidelines gave us a new risk estimator that the American College of Cardiology packaged into the ASCVD Risk Estimator app. Once you understand their risk, then comes the intervention focused on modifiable risk factors.
How will tech today, and in the future, make healthcare better?
Technology is having an impact on our lives everywhere we go. From the way we shop to the food that we eat, technology is changing everything we do.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in healthcare, where technology is helping us beyond convenience, it is helping save lives.
The impacts have been substantial already, but in future these developments are likely to be even more pronounced.
So which technologies are having a real impact on healthcare?
Surgery is always a dangerous procedure, regardless of what is being done. The reason that good surgeons are some of the best paid people in the world is because their job is incredibly difficult and requires considerable skill.
New technology is making some surgical procedures less likely, which is therefore decreasing the risk of death that every surgery brings.
We have seen through the use of pulses, lasers, ultrasounds and magnetic stimulation that these techniques can be considerably safer than traditional surgical procedures.
Some of these are not new, such as X-Ray imaging, but we are seeing through new technology that the pace of change and the levels of success are constantly increasing. The future is bright for this kind of medical care and is a key element in reducing the chances of death whilst being treated.
Although currently limited mainly to prosthetics as a common use for 3D printing, the truth is that it has almost endless possibilities when the technology develops further.
We have seen that 3D printing can provide prosthetics at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. They can even be made into completely custom designs, as the famous video with Robert Downey Jr giving an Iron Man prosthetic to a fan shows.
In future 3D printing could potentially create organic matter to order, which means that it could be anything from new skin to match exactly in skin grafts, to fully formed hearts or lungs that could be transplanted.
M-Health allows data to be collected about a patient through everyday life. This is then collected by a mobile device and can be transmitted to a doctor directly or stored in a database to track how a patient is reacting to a treatment over time.
The benefits of this are hard to overstate. It gives doctors the kind of insight that they would never be able to achieve through traditional time slots and clinical evaluations. These sessions will have significant time constraints and also are experienced outside of a patient’s regular routine.
Having access to this data gives doctors the unique opportunity to view the patient’s reaction when outside of a clinical environment, which aids in recovery, treatment and condition monitoring.
It can even be configured to alert the patient and doctor if levels drop or rise sharply and may require medical attention.
The genetics database may not be something that many people will be aware of on an individual level, but across the healthcare community will have a huge impact.
It will give clinicians a huge database that can be used to establish best treatments, the way that diseases affect different demographics or even how viruses spread in particular areas. It will essentially be the best possible opportunity for doctors to make the best decisions about the treatment of patients through crowd sourced medical information.
It will allow the best possible treatments to be administered that will not only suit the individual, but also make considerable differences to the effectiveness of them, based on in depth information. It will mean that somebody with a certain blood pressure, of a particular age, from a specific place and with a certain activity rate, can get the treatment that is likely to be the most successful for them.
It also means that when outbreaks like the Ebola crisis of 2014 occur, the genetics of the disease from the earliest patients can help prevent the disease spreading as rapidly in other areas of the population.
En France, 45% de la population se dit prête à communiquer ses données de santé à un réseau de soins, et ce taux grimpe même à 76% lorsqu'il s'agit de les confier à un professionnel de santé (étude GNResearch, décembre 2015). Un changement de comportement est en marche, et il aura des conséquences positives si l'on sait tirer profit des données disponibles.
A wide variety of digital innovations are revolutionising healthcare — and technology in medicine is here to stay. How are these changes impacting the delivery of care, and what skills are needed to succeed in this bold new world?
It’s no secret that, as a society, technology has become a part of our everyday lives. In fact, almost 60 percent of American adults own a smartphone, and 42 percent of that same population (American adults) owns a tablet computer.
Though technology has been permeating almost every aspect of our lives, until recent years the medical field has been largely unaffected by the rapid pace of technological innovation that is characteristic of the Digital Age. However, this is changing. As geneticist Eric To-pol puts it in his book, The Creative Destruction of Medicine, “Medicine is about to go through its biggest shakeup in history.”
This ubiquity of technology is beginning to extend into the medical field. Advances in medical technology are changing medicine by giving physicians more information — as well as better, more specific data. To-pol has this to say about the changing landscape of medical technology:
This is a new era of medicine, in which each person can be near fully defined at the individual level, instead of how we (have previously) practice medicine at a population level. We are each unique human beings, but until now there was no way to determine a relevant metric like blood pressure around the clock while a person is sleeping, or at work, or in the midst of an emotional upheaval. This represents the next frontier of the digital revolution, finally getting to the most important but heretofore insulated domain: preserving our health.
New Medical Technology: Innovations
So just what are these new advances in technology? According to Topol, they apply to almost every aspect of health.
We can remotely and continuously monitor each heartbeat, moment-to-moment blood pressure readings, the rate and depth of breathing, body temperature, oxygen concentration in the blood, glucose, brain waves, activity, mood — all the things that make us tick,” he says. “For the first time, we can digitise humans.”
The main purpose of all of this innovation is the gathering of information, leading to more specific, personalised care. Tech professionals in the medical field can assemble data about individuals from genome sequencing, imaging and biosensors, then integrate it with traditional medical methods to find the best approach to patient care.
The following are just a few of the many innovations that have occurred in medical technology over the past year alone. Some of these leading technologies are still being developed, while others are slowly being introduced into mainstream medical practice.
- The modern hospital experience: Several medical technology companies are looking to update hospital stays to keep pace with the needs of modern patients. For example, NXT Health is improving room design to “eliminate wasteful redundancy and technological clutter that plague many modern healthcare facilities.” To more easily integrate changing technology, these new rooms would feature interchangeable parts that are easily adapted to the specific situation of a patient. The seamless design would have a minimal impact on facility operations while increasing patient comfort and connectivity.
- Surgery simulation: The Roswell Park Cancer Institute has partnered with the University of Buffalo’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences to create the Robotic Surgery Simulator (RoSS). This innovation allows real-world views of surgeries while eliminating the need for a live environment to train aspiring surgeons. It gives these medical professionals the space to experiment in a simulated environment, rather than risking making mistakes on real patients.
- Streamlined lab testing: The lab testing process could be changing very soon, due to companies like Theranos, who have “designed a way to run tests with micro-samples of blood, one-thousandth the size of a typical blood draw.” This practice will provide a better patient experience while reducing the cost of many widely used lab tests.
- Mitochondrial DNA transfer: Though the first successful transplants of mitochondrial DNA occurred in the late 90's, these procedures are currently becoming a more potentially viable option for the reduction of gene related diseases. The process, in which “two parents contribute normally to in vitro fertilisation and a third party contributes the mitochondrial DNA,” is being perfected so that its usefulness will soon be difficult to deny.
The Future of Healthcare Technology
With widespread innovations like these affecting patient care practices, it is not surprising that the way medical records and information are stored and shared is changing as well. These technological advancements are cost-effective and improve the ability of medical professionals to diagnose and treat health issues of all kinds. Three of the main changes that are revolutionising the future of healthcare are electronic medical records, health information exchange and ICD-10.
Electronic Health Records (EHRs)
Over the past few decades, both medical billing and coding have switched from being paper-based to a computerised format. Electronic medical records offer a wide variety of benefits to the medical field. As Milt Freudenheim, a New York Times contributor, points out, “They can make healthcare more efficient and less expensive, and improve the quality of care by making patients’ medical history easily accessible to all who treat them.”
EHRs have also gained federal funding: The government has given $6.5 billion in incentives. With support from both the public and private sector, doctors benefit from the introduction of EHRs as well. They can access “all the care a patient has ever received and can figure out possible illnesses,” while streamlining the treatment process and preventing unnecessary costs.
Health Information Exchange (HIE)
HIE gives health care professionals and patients the information access they need. It allows for the secure sharing of patient medical history between physicians of all specialities, while also allowing patients to access data about their own health. Because health information exchange creates improved communication and care quality, it provides “safer, more effective care” based on the needs of each specific patient. According to HealthIT.gov, “new payment approaches that stress care coordination and federal financial incentives are all driving the interest and demand for health information exchange.”
ICD-10 and Medical Billing
The International Statistical Classification of Diseases, or ICD-10, is the latest innovation when it comes to diagnostic tools. It is essentially an enhanced medical coding system that includes over 14,000 different codes globally, as well as additional subcategories. This means that patients and insurance companies can be billed for services and procedures in a highly specific way. And in the United States, ICD-10 classification is even more extensive — it includes additional codes that push the total to 76,000 ways that medical procedure claims can be processed and paid. This beneficial tool allows countries to retrieve and store all diagnostic information in a streamlined, efficient way. However, healthcare facilities must install new software and train staff to follow ICD-10 guidelines. This is another area where trained health informatics professionals are invaluable.
The Vital Role of Health Informatics
None of this tech innovation would be possible without the field of health informatics. With the rapid development of new technologies, “formidable health information systems” are required in order for medical practices and facilities to keep up. And as technology becomes more and more necessary for the effective functioning of our healthcare system, people proficient in the field of health informatics are more in-demand than ever. The interdisciplinary field combines information technology, health and communications and aims to improve patient care quality and interaction between medical professionals. To put it simply, health informatics is the science that makes the transition to digital healthcare practices possible. Trained professionals in this discipline work to “collect, store, analyse and present health data in a digital format.”
The new approaches to medical coding, health information exchange and billing outlined above require specialised databases that are customised to meet the needs of each physician and medical practice. Professionals in the health informatics field also ensure that patient data is secure. This involves server configuration and assigning strict access credentials. All of these new and emerging requirements fall under the domain of health informatics.
Health Informatics Education and Outlook
Job growth and demand in the health informatics field reflects this newfound importance. The Bureau of Labor Statistics-projects a 22 percent increase in employment through the year 2022, a rate that is much faster than the national average for all occupations. Individuals who are considering a career in this in-demand field often choose to pursue undergraduate study in health informatics, enabling them to be a valuable part of today’s rapidly changing healthcare system.