Is technology making healthcare easier or harder to access? It turns out, it depends on who you ask. While those who have easy access to digital resources are benefitting from the influx of technology in healthcare, many of the most vulnerable people in our population could get left behind as the technological wave pushes through the healthcare industry. There’s no stopping the wave, though, with advances in diagnosing skin cancer and healthcare education, technology is changing healthcare as we know it right before our eyes, and research shows that most patients are okay with it.
The Covid-19 pandemic caused a surge in digital healthcare, but it has also led to conversations about the digital divide: the vast space between those who have easy access to technology and those who do not. At medpagetoday.com, David Nash, MD, MBA, FACP takes an interesting look at the increased use of technology in healthcare and the digital divide it creates for some patients, especially the elderly, noting that a patient’s connectivity might need to be considered a vital sign that doctors routinely ask patients at every visit. Read more about this perspective and who is least likely to utilize digital technology in healthcare here.
However, there is more to consider at forbes.com where Kal Vepuri, founder and CEO of Hero, says that technology is finally democratizing healthcare and that it is patient driven. The influx of the tech industry into healthcare is thought to have advantages such as making healthcare more convenient, and helping patients stay healthy and connected – even for the elderly, says Vepuri, as long as the tech companies keep seniors in mind when developing healthcare technology. Read more here.
The good news is that when patients have the access to healthcare technology, they are okay with using it. A recent study published at jamanetwork.com found that patients would be okay with robots performing some medical tasks in the hospital emergency room setting. Participants in the study were asked if they would find it acceptable for a robot to perform tasks such as taking vital signs, facilitating a telehealth interview, obtaining nasal and oral swabs, and turning a patient over in bed. Most participants said that using robotic systems to facilitate healthcare would be acceptable, and of the patients who interacted with a robotic system for a triage interview, the majority reported that their experience was equal to the quality of a person-to-person interview. Learn more about the study here.
Patients aren’t the only ones being impacted by technology in healthcare. Doctors and medical students have access to a number of new learning tools, says techgenyz.com. Technology is impacting healthcare education in a variety of ways. Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, computer assisted learning, and wearable technologies are all transforming the way healthcare is learned and practiced. Find more information about how each technology is used in healthcare education here
The traditional way surgeons are trained is over a century old, but technology is changing all that. In an interview with Dr. Justin Barad, surgeon, CEO and co-founder of Osso VR, techrepublic.com explores how virtual reality technology is changing the way surgeons are being trained. Barad says that Osso VR offers better opportunity for doctors to train and assess themselves and learn new procedures, much like pilots practice with simulated situations. Research shows that when people train with virtual reality technology, their performance goes up by 230 to 300 percent, which will ultimately help improve patient outcomes. Learn more about Osso VR and how it is being used to improve surgical training here.
Researchers are also continuing to use technology to find ways to diagnose cancer in its early stages. Sciencedaily.com reports that new technology is helping to better diagnose melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Computer-aided diagnosis (CAD) systems have been developed to help in diagnosing suspicious pigmented lesions (SPLs) on the skin that can indicate cancer, but because they are trained to look at skin lesions individually rather than compare multiple lesions as a dermatologist does, the CAD systems haven’t had much effect on diagnosing melanoma. However, a new CAD system can now use a photo of a patient’s skin to successfully distinguish SPLs from non-suspicious lesions with 90 percent accuracy. The researchers have made their CAD system algorithm available to others and hope to eventually turn the system into a product that could be used by primary care doctors all over the world. Learn more here.
Jennifer Lessinger is a professional writer and editor who learned the value of patient empowerment during her struggle with a hard-to-diagnose and complex endocrine disorder.