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Health and the technologies that make it better
12 Jan 2022
Health and the technologies that make it better image

There has never been a better time to talk about health and technology than today where we are ravaged by a pandemic and it seems the gripping effects it has on us is not going to wane off anytime soon. To know how far we have reached in healthcare we also need to know where we were before? 

The Past

As compared to the 1900s, when modern medicine emerged, the level of advancements we have made in the medical field is truly astounding.

Back in the day, there were no certified doctors but just claimed physicians. They didn’t have an understanding of why the disease happened and their treatment lacked scientific backing.

Even the importance of sterile conditions to perform surgeries was not understood. What is even more frightening is the fact that regulatory bodies didn’t even exist.

But this has all changed with several advancements made; like the discovery of the hypodermic needle which introduced drugs more effectively. And also the two world wars provided army doctors with a better understanding of trauma care and surgery.

Today we have antibiotics and magnetic resonance imaging to innovation in pharmaceuticals and drug production. Anyone who visited us from back in time would think of it all like magic. Moreover, medical practice is highly professionalized meaning doctors and nurses are more duty-bound.

The Stagnation

Now that’s the end of the good part. The pandemic has shown the flaws in our healthcare systems. The simple truth is these flaws were already there. But the way how our economies work and inefficient governments have always paid a blind eye to it.

These problems exist throughout the world in varying degrees. One of the major challenges we face today is in detecting new disease-causing pathogens and the inability of nations to contain it if at all it emerges.

But technology has played a crucial role in reducing the devastating impact the virus could have. This was achieved by developing multiple effective vaccines in record-breaking time. And also creating effective communications channels that helped in sharing vital information across the world when needed.

We are seeing how healthcare has transformed rapidly right in front of our eyes. It has eased the operation, procedures, and experience of both doctors and patients. The internet has provided medical professionals and researchers with the ability to access patient records from anywhere. Also due to greater emphasis on privacy, this data remains confidential at all times guaranteeing the patient peace of mind. 

The New Phase

So how has technology changed healthcare and what’s the future of healthcare going to look like? Here we first look at the technologies that we have today and then later how much better they get in the future.

Today healthcare has become better at

Easier to access data 

With the integration of the internet and intranet with the healthcare infrastructure, it has become easier for doctors to access a patient’s record at any time.

This not only saves time but also prevents the loss of data. Also, a clean and common interface prevents data misinterpretation or gives the choice to clarify doubts because there is a feature already in place.

Telemedicine

One of the biggest advantages brought into healthcare is telemedicine. This is particularly useful when healthcare professionals have to reach out to people in remote areas.

This has proved to be so useful these days when people usually stay at home. It prevented unnecessary visits to hospitals thereby reducing transmissibility.

It provides the opportunity to consult the best doctors in the country. In another way, it also helps reduce travel costs and maybe even consultation fees.

Online training and education

As healthcare is constantly evolving it is essential for all personnel to use the latest technology and learn to handle new situations with the best possible practices. Running courses online allows healthcare professionals to access this content according to their free time.

Apps and smart wearables

Today we have thousands of health apps that can constantly monitor our health and give us an update about necessary checks. These data are always available and doctors can better understand a patient’s routine and conditions and make treatments more individual-centric rather than a general approach.

These apps along with smart wearables create an ecosystem that constantly watches over our health and has even the ability to report any abnormalities. We have heard of how devices like the Apple watch have been able to alert users about abnormal cardiovascular conditions and save them right on time.

The Next Big Thing

Undoubtedly we have the technology today that our vitals remain safe and it is only going to get better with the integration of new-age technologies like artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, deep learning and blockchain, and other advancements. Moreover, technologies like robotics, 3D printing, and nanotechnology are going to reshape and revolutionize the way we are going to be treated and in making better prosthetics and even joints.

Now let’s take a look into what the future beholds. That being said, we do know and understand how some of these healthcare technologies work but are still in their early stages and I would like to share with you some of the popular ones.

Nanotechnology 

We all know how nanotechnology has already revolutionized our world. Things have been getting smaller, smarter, and more efficient. The applications of nanotechnology in healthcare are already being seen such as targeted chemotherapy which as the name implies targets only the cancer cells and not the healthy cells. But what’s coming next sounds straight out of a sci-fi movie. 

We are talking about Nanorobots that will be injected into our bloodstream. These tiny bots will then constantly monitor various chemical reactions and neurological functions that will give us an unparalleled understanding of our body and will help eliminate any minor changes which might escalate into major health risks.  

Genetic testing

This essentially means sequencing our DNA and seeing what diseases we are naturally prone to because of our genetic flaws and how to effectively prevent them.

But this technology remains accessible only to a very few as it is expensive and we do not have computers that can process this level of information in a short and acceptable time. 

Brain-computer interface

This is going to be a true life-changer especially for those who are disabled either by birth or due to an accident. It is simply a thing of the future but it is already here. Disabled people will be able to lead a normal life.

It works by implanting a chip into our brains that converts neurological signals into electrical signals. We have all heard about Elon Musk’s Neuralink which is undoubtedly one of the coolest things happening. 

Quantum computing and AI 

We have mentioned quite a few technologies before like genetic testing and Nanorobots. But the existing computing power is not sufficient to process such enormous data. This is where quantum computing makes the grand entry. We do know that the processing power of quantum computers is going to make the existing supercomputers look obsolete. Quantum computing along with AI can reduce the time it takes to process large information and make other technologies a more viable option.

5G

Undoubtedly the future of communication is 5G. It can seamlessly integrate and share data with several devices. This creates an ecosystem of devices that are constantly monitoring our health and analyses it to look for any abnormalities which may lead to a health risk. But what’s more interesting about 5G is going to be its ability to transfer data at very high speeds. This is going to be useful when robots are involved in surgeries controlled by a surgeon who might be halfway across the planet. This greatly reduces time and travel and saves a ton of money. 

Surgical robots

As the name suggests these are robots that do surgery either completely autonomously or partially controlled by a surgeon. They are already here and have made quite a change in the performance of surgeries. One of the biggest advantages of these robots is precision and their ability to move along well-defined paths reducing post-surgical recovery times and human errors.

Bioprinting

Bioprinting is an advanced version of 3D printing. Though we are yet to reach there some breakthroughs have happened. Scientists have now been able to make artificial human tissue. In the future, we will be able to make artificial organs; thereby resolving the problem of finding suitable donors in a very short time.

As we have seen, technology is constantly changing healthcare. What is more interesting is the fact that disease or abnormality detection is increasingly becoming self-standing using smart wearables. This is going to get better and advanced to such a state that the role of a doctor will shift from diagnostics to treatments and automated surgeries.

This will allow doctors and researchers to better our healthcare systems such as detection, diagnostics, and improving treatments at the same time improving the overall patient experience all at an affordable price.

Most importantly, the healthcare system is growing and it is very important to make use of its benefits. Technology made it easier to consult a doctor within seconds. So it is very important to take care of your health too.

-Adithya Krishnan

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