Technology advances at an exponential rate, a phenomenon known in the scientific community as Moore’s Law. Indeed, technological innovations that didn’t exist a few decades ago are changing the way many industries are operating. Software, like ridesharing applications, are revolutionizing commercial transportation, and hardware, like smart irrigation systems, are improving agricultural practices.
Information technology is one of the fastest evolving facets of scientific progress. Advances in IT have a tendency to affect many parts of human society. In the healthcare industry, IT innovations not only enhance performance, but they can also save lives. Some of these innovations improve the operational aspect of healthcare providers, such as electronic record-keeping and ServiceNow implementation. Others can potentially alter medical practices. Examples include the integration of artificial intelligence and virtual healthcare or telemedicine.
Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare
Although healthcare providers have only begun to explore the possibilities offered by artificial intelligence, the functions that researchers have discovered so far are already groundbreaking. By using advanced algorithms on patient information, artificial intelligence can perform tests to diagnose certain illnesses.
One such program is Watson, augmented intelligence software designed by IBM to help physicians make clinical decisions. The program does this by data mining the patient’s medical records, pathology tests, previous research, and input from a physician. Because of its digital nature, Watson can parse through this data much faster than a human and come up with a diagnosis and treatment plan in a short period. Medical practitioners are still questioning the ethics of using such technology and testing its reliability as a diagnostic tool.
Other uses of artificial intelligence include using their algorithms to discover more potent drugs, tracking the progress of clinical trials for new treatments, and coming up with strategies to improve patient’s treatment plans and outcomes.
Smartphones and camera-equipped computers have made virtual healthcare or telemedicine more feasible. By using mobile apps and video conferencing software, doctors and other medical practitioners can get in touch with patients without being in the same room or even city.
Patients can send relevant files and photos of injuries or symptoms over applications and receive a diagnosis through the same channels. This is good news for people who live or work some distance from the nearest doctor. Patients who aren’t feeling well enough to go to the hospital can contact their physicians for help and to update them on their condition. Telehealth solutions can increase the efficiency of hospitals and could potentially save $7 billion every year.
The healthcare industry also uses telemedicine to transmit the vital statistics of patients to doctors via wearable monitoring devices. Medical personnel can then take note of any anomalous events that could be from previously overlooked illnesses or monitor changes caused by pre-existing conditions.
Researchers are considering a lot of other information technology innovations in their quest to improve healthcare services. Virtual reality simulators can aid in training new doctors. Surgeons are already using robot assistants during certain procedures. With the exponential rate of innovation, the possibilities in the future of healthcare can literally be endless, giving comfort to the millions of people who require medical attention all over the world.