There’s never been a more exciting era in the healthcare IT space than now. The intersection of disruptive technological innovation and a more tech-savvy generation of customers provides endless opportunities across a wide range of medical applications.
The healthcare industry has traditionally been reluctant to embrace tech. Given the strict regulations, the sensitivity of healthcare, and the potentially deadly consequences if something does go wrong, this reluctance is understandable. Slowly but surely though, healthcare is embracing IT, thereby unleashing new levels of efficiency and customer satisfaction.
Here’s a look at some of the key tech trends that are fast establishing a foothold in healthcare.
By Anne Dabrow Woods, DNP, RN, CRNP, ANP-BC, AGACNP-BC, FAAN, chief nurse, Wolters Kluwer, Health Learning, Research and Practice.
These are the days we never thought we’d see – unimagined times, pushing our nurses and healthcare workers to the brink with the demands of COVID-19. They’ve stepped up with unbelievable courage and resiliency. They’ve done so without many of the resources they’ve traditionally had, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical equipment. But one thing that’s undoubtedly made a difference is technology.
Patients have been able to interact with their primary care provider and nurses via telehealth ensuring that patients are able to continue with the medications and treatment plans for chronic conditions and new issues.
In the acute care space, it has enabled patients to visit with their family through digital technology, and providers and nurses have been able to update the families on patients’ progress.
After patients are discharged with COVID-19, the patient is in daily contact with a nurse to make sure their condition isn’t worsening, and they understand how to care for themselves. This works to ensure patients have follow-up care and the family is supported. And those are just a few ways.
While the survey was taken prior to the pandemic, the results give insight into the role of technology as it applies to both next-generation nurses (those with less than 10 years of practice) and more experienced ones. The survey conducted by Wolters Kluwer aimed to explore the mindset of today’s nurses and healthcare workers, so hospitals can respond accordingly.
Digital natives versus techno-phobes
When looking at next-generation nurses, we should keep in mind that many of them grew up in a time with widespread use of the internet, social media, and mobile communication. Many nurses with longer tenure began their careers when the internet was in its infancy and computers weren’t an integral part of a hospital’s operations.
Next-generation nurses are, for the most part, digital natives. That comfort level does tend to influence their opinions: when care is better, next-generation nurses think it’s because of technology. 84% believe clinical-decision support systems at the point of care are making it easier to make the most informed, evidenced-based care decisions.
In addition, 84% feel specialized systems that provide treatment recommendations and integrate with electronic health records (EHRs) have a positive impact on how care is delivered.
Their understanding of technology may be a factor in them spending less time in EHRs than their more seasoned counterparts; 69% report spending too much time in EHRs, compared to 81% of more experienced nurses.
Next-generation nurses are fans of artificial intelligence (AI). 63% say they are optimistic that the use of AI will help providers get the information they need to make better care decisions.
Experienced nurses weren’t as convinced, with only half agreeing that AI will help in making better care decisions. (This insight should alert hospital leaders of the need to educate staff on how AI can improve clinical decision making so that implementation of AI will be viewed as a positive and not as a negative.)
Technological innovations are helping medical experts advance and improve the healthcare industry. The advancements are not just quick, but also efficient. Some of the technologies allow healthcare professionals to diagnose diseases with 100 percent accuracy. Through technology and science, medical researchers are creating innovations that are improving, expanding and transforming the healthcare industry.
Technological advancements, like artificial intelligence, are aiding experts in creating new technologies in short periods. Also, machine learning applications are helping scientists analyze data incredibly fast. Here are the top medical technology breakthroughs this year:
When it comes to medical research and healthcare technology, radiology has been among the fastest growing sectors. Cutting-edge technological advancements and optimized manufacturing using Leading2Lean have enabled the creation of multi-functional systems that simultaneously diagnose a wide range of medical problems, symptoms, signs and biomarkers without being cost-prohibitive. Looking into the coming few years, both patients and physicians could see multi-functional MRIs, systems that detect the percentage of the cancerous cells in the body and a variety of other machines that offer an almost instantaneous diagnosis.
Smartphone applications and chatbots are currently making waves in the therapy field. It is another technological advancement that might bring mental health treatments back to human-to-human interactions. Teletherapy, which involves delivering therapeutic sessions by video-enabled interfaces, is probably an essential technological advancement of mental health.
As society becomes evolved about the roles of mental healthcare, the higher the demand will be on psychiatrists and therapists. When looking at 2018 in review, the number of healthcare providers, were not enough to meet the demand of the patients. The main problem with mental health is that demand is always higher compared to supply.
In almost every way, this technology is similar to traditional therapy. Patients visit their doctors and sit face-to-face with them and discuss the issue. But instead of a chair, patients use FaceTime and Skype or other video conferencing services. The benefit of teletherapy is that you will not travel to any place and you can have your session from wherever you are and whenever you are able.
Improved cancer recovery resources
Health experts are using cutting-edge genomics technology to diagnose and treat cancer while minimizing the utilization of radiation therapy. Experts forecast that the genomic sequencing technology will help revolutionize all aspects and processes of cancer treatment. As a result of the medical technology breakthroughs this year, scientists are developing new treatment techniques based on genomic alterations.
Around the world, there has been a notable shortage of biomedical engineers. From Kenya, to the U.K. and the U.S., healthcare facilities have begun filling positions that require specific training and licensing with underqualified employees, which has not only led to increased risk for health problems within communities, but it also reduces the advancement of medical technology and thwarts the cure of devastating diseases.
Biomedical engineers, while not the face of medical research like physicians and surgeons, are integral professionals within healthcare, and without them, we wouldn’t have most of the medical devices and tools in use today. It is imperative that more students pursue credentials in biomedical engineering, so we can continue to advance our medical knowledge.
What Do Biomedical Engineers Do?
Every industry relies on equipment. In healthcare, that equipment is designed, built, maintained, and sometimes operated by biomedical engineers. Combining typical engineering skills with medical training, biomedical engineers work alongside doctors to generate solutions to pressing medical issues. Like other engineers, biomedical engineers can claim a variety of responsibilities, to include:
Evaluating medical equipment for safety, efficiency and efficacy.
Developing new medical equipment, such as artificial organs and limbs, machines for testing and diagnosis, and devices that treat chronic illness.
Installing, repairing, maintaining, or otherwise providing technical support for medical equipment.
Training personnel for proper use or maintenance of medical equipment.
Undoubtedly, nearly everyone in developed or developing nations has seen the work of biomedical engineers. From MRI machines to prosthetic legs, from pacemakers to laser surgical tools, the most useful and innovative equipment in hospitals exist thanks to biomedical engineers’ efforts.
Less commonly, biomedical engineers might research biological systems, publish reports, and present their findings to scientists, executives, clinicians, hospital administrators, fellow engineers, and the public. These findings may serve as recommendations for the development of new technologies or the adoption of new methods in medical institutions. It is this academic biomedical engineering study that often pushes innovations in the field, but all biomedical engineers contribute to medical advancement — and it is all biomedical engineers that are currently lacking.