Technology has greatly changed health care in a number of different ways. Though this change has been a gradual, progressing through the 20th century into the 21st, it has been very profound and sweeping nevertheless. The following are some of the important ways in which technology has changed the health field. Understanding these ways is important for experienced health professionals and newcomers alike.
Better Testing and Imaging
The accuracy level of various forms of medical testing has rapidly increased. Today’s medical tests are more informative than ever before. They are sometimes safer as well, though this is not always the case. New technologies may create new areas of risk. X ray Computed Tomography for instance has shown an increase in risks and accidents due to radiation exposure as its use becomes more widespread.
Even in areas as simple as blood testing technology has advanced to a level of standardization and safety that was not attainable before. Small to moderate amounts of blood are collected in evacuated vials (often known by the trade name Vacutainers) that combine the blood collection, storage, and transportation process in a single piece of inexpensive equipment. This increases the integrity of blood samples and reduce the incidence of problems like infection occurring during blood collection.
Other examples of high technology testing include sophisticated imaging and monitoring modalities such as X ray Computed Tomography, Electrocardiography, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and Sonography. These modalities allow physicians to get highly resolved and accurate images of physiological processes and anatomical structures in a way that was not possible before their invention. The net effect of all this is to increase the efficacy of both diagnosis and prevention and many forms of treatment. Better information means earlier detection of problems or potential problems. The ideal situation is to detect health issues early so they can be prevented. This is often possible with these new testing modalities.
More Accurate Surgery
The advent of equipment such as robotics and lasers in the surgical fields has greatly advanced the accuracy and capabilities of surgery. Whereas once a surgeon had only hand held items like scalpals and clamps with which to operate on patients, today these high tech tools allow them to do more surgically while being less invasive. Laser surgery for instance has had a profound effect on ophthalmology.
Again, though there may be risks with new types of technology that need to be better understood, ideally this new technology results in better success rates with surgery and more lives saves or medical problems corrected.
Many Different forms of Treatment
There are many different forms of treatment that are technologically based which are now available. Without high technology these methods of treatment would not be possible. There may be controversy as to the safety or advisability of some such new methods, but they have definitely altered the medical field in very significant ways. In other cases the new technologies are clearly less dangerous than previous options.
For instance, consider therapeutic ultrasound. This is a treatment option that uses high frequency sound waves to produce changes to stimulate cell regeneration, oxygenation, and blood flow. This can assist significantly in internal healing and does require use of drugs or surgery, both of which are well known to have a variety or risks that ultrasound does not. Ultrasound can be used both diagnostically and therapeutically and is thus also an example of the integration of several different uses of a single technology.
Increased Life Spans
All of the high tech advances in medicine have resulted in increased life spans. The average age has steadily risen over the 20th century mainly due to improvements in medical care, many of which the result of new technological innovations. Both prevention do to better diagnostic capabilities and more effective treatment have all resulted in more rapid and long term patient recovery rates and the reduction of mortality. The average life span in the US today stands at an all time high of 78.37 years.
Health Information Technology Improves Efficiency and Care
Another dimension of the question of technology as it relates to health care concerns information rather than diagnosis and treatment. The advent of Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems has resulted in a new accessibility and integration of patient information among health care providers of various types. Though this is still developing, it ideally will create a much more rapid and effective sense of information access. This should result in better patient care and less medical error. Again, then, this will lead to better medical care and thus recovery and longevity.
Both medical records and medical billing software solutions are in the process of being integrated and standardized. As financial issues related to health care are made more streamlined, insurance compensation should improve, resulting in more affordable health care and better cash flow in the industry as a whole. Though recent economic difficulties may seem to contradict this to some degree, the current monetary challenges the world is facing can only be helped by better technologies as long as they are well integrated and employed.
Increased Job Opportunity
Different technologies have created new or expanding areas of job technology. Medical technologists as a general class of professionals have seen a steady increase in employability. New machines mean a new demand for individuals trained in the use of those machines. The phasing in of the use of technologies by more and more medical facilities and practitioners means that jobs are opening up for technologists as a general trend nationwide. This is in fact making medical technology fields some of the best professions to get involved currently from a job security and advancement perspective, and this applies to both highly trained and entry level type positions of this sort.
In all of these ways technology has changed health care. And this seems to be only the beginning. Fields like medical nanotechnology, regenerative tissue engineering, and remote vital signs detection promise to alter the effectiveness of health care still more as time goes on. The future of medicine looks bright as long as technology is well integrated, risks are reduced, and the technology is used for the greatest overall good.