technology, tech, health, access, apps, telemedicine

Perspective

Data, devices, apps & access: 4 ways tech is transforming health care

| Oct 02 2017
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There is no question that telemedicine is the future of healthcare. In fact, in many ways that future as already arrived. As a physician and an industry professional, here are four technologies I believe are having, and will continue to have, the most impact on healthcare.

Data

Black surgeon typing on laptop in hospital. Image by © ERproductions Ltd/Blend Images/Corbis

As the healthcare industry amasses new types of data in greater volume than ever before, we are presented with the opportunity to increase personalization and cut costs at the same time. In drug discovery, big data can reduce the time and money spent on clinical trials while making it easier to identify which drugs will work for the biggest part of the population. Patient information from sources including medical histories, insurance records, and genetic data can be used to create tailored treatment and prevention programs, leading to better care for individual patients.

Devices

Photo of a smartphone and smart watch on a desk.

Wearable technology, such as fitness bands, smart watches, blood pressure sensors, and breathing monitors, has significance for healthcare on several levels. As potential source of data mentioned, wearables can play a key role in the management of chronic conditions as well as preventative care. They also make new level of patient engagement possible. Getting people interested in monitoring and recording information about their own health empowers patients as never before. The field of population health benefits too, as all the individual data can be combined to give significant insight into the health of a community

Apps

Close up photo of a person using their smartphone.

There are apps available for everything from fitness and exercise to meditation and mindfulness, as well as ones for people with chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension. This gives people control over their own health by giving them the tools for prevention, treatment, and management available instantly on a smart phone. In addition, there are apps that make it possible to connect with doctors, pharmacies, and other care providers, cutting down on time spent making phone calls or waiting for available appointments.

Access

Photo of someone using their laptop.

Making it easier and less expensive for people to get information about their own health, and facilitating contact with healthcare providers, means that more people will be able to get the care they need. It should be the goal of everyone who works in healthcare to lower all existing barriers to getting quality care. These technological advances address the issue of social determinants of health by giving currently underserved communities, both rural and inner-city, better access to both personal and professional healthcare information.

The physician as a human being

Cropped image of nurse holding patient's hand

Everything I do as a physician is driven by two things: science and art. The science is made up of everything I have learned, through both my education and experience as a clinician: Someone comes in with a symptom and I go through algorithms in my head to narrow down possible causes. Some of this can be done better, faster, and cheaper by AI.

But an algorithm for empathy has yet to be developed, which is one reason why technology will never replace human beings as doctors. Sometimes a person comes in with terminal cancer, and there’s nothing I can do but hold their hand and listen. And that’s fine.

Technology will enhance the care doctors can offer patients, and make it possible for more people than ever to access that care. But human connection has a part in every doctor-patient relationship and that is something that AI can never replace.

How do you see technology revolutionizing healthcare, as a patient or a physician, and what are the biggest benefits and pitfalls to be aware of as we move forward?