In today’s world, technological innovation has spread into all aspects of society. Tech isn’t just computers and smartphones. Technology is also being used to improve health care, both in terms of quality and accessibility.
The integration of technology into our lives started slowly. We started typing on computers, watching TV and generally began redefining our lifestyles to incorporate new technologies. And now that technology has started not only adding to our lives but improving what has already existed, technological advancement is being pushed into new territory.
Improvements in Medical Technology
The use of technology in the medical field has improved efficiency and effectiveness greatly. This has primarily involved the development of new medical devices. But beyond mechanical devices, technology is being used in conjunction with our biology and has expanded health care to our homes.
Not only have hospitals benefitted from improvements in medical technology, but now regular people have too on an everyday kind of basis. A lot of medical equipment is being created such that it can be operated by a typical person, and so that it can be used in the comfort of one’s own home.
Technology is Also Being Used with Our Bodies
For example, technology is now helping out with our organs and limbs. In the past, devices such as pacemakers have been implemented directly into our bodies, but now ideas that had only been imaged in science fiction are closer to becoming a reality.
With the development of new tech devices in the medical field, production and processing have been improved to help decrease the costs. One of the primary obstacles inhibiting the successful implementation of new devices into society is simply the price, for both producers and consumers.
Even if a new instrument or process has been developed, without it being accessible to the people, it’s nearly worthless. Another aspect of how technology has helped us is by making devices simpler and cheaper.
As you’re reading this article, there are many new types of medical technology being developed, that we might benefit from soon. So, if you’re curious to see what might be a part of your future health care experience, here are a couple of new technologies helping us live longer and better:
1. Virtual Reality
You might be thinking, “video games”? The quick answer: yes, and no.
Virtual reality has presented so many possibilities besides just really cool video games. Nowadays, virtual reality is even being used in health care.
Virtual reality is being used as both an educational tool and a treatment in the medical field. In terms of education, many growing surgeons and doctors, generally, use virtual reality to train by simulating real-life events. It’s also being used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder as a form of exposure therapy.
2. At-home Blood Tests
If you thought you needed a big, fancy, expensive lab to test your blood, nowadays you don’t (at least for some tests). Some new at-home blood tests have been created to detect everything from STDs to food sensitivity.
At-home blood tests allow people to reach a diagnosis faster and to do so from the comfort of their own homes. Depending on what you need a blood test for, these at-home kits can be cheap. Typically, they run for anywhere between $15 to $150.
One new at-home blood test is imaware™’s celiac disease screening test. Their test is sold for $99 and only requires a couple of drops of blood. You send your blood sample back to their lab, and they will send you a link to an online report of your results.
Since there have been many more cases of celiac disease lately, a test like this is perfect for anyone who thinks they might have it but doesn’t have the time to go out for a test at a traditional medical office. Especially since getting your blood drawn can be a scary experience for many people, being able to do it at home and requiring only a small amount of blood allows people to be more comfortable during the blood-drawing process.
3. 3D Printing
3D printing has many uses. It’s typically thought of as being used to print small shapes and cool figurines, but now 3D printing is being used to print parts for devices.
Two major implementations of 3D printing in the health care world include implants and prosthetics. 3D printing allows both to be made much cheaper and faster. It also enables these to be made more precisely for the patient in mind.
In other words, 3D printing has made implants and prosthetics and many other medical devices more accessible by decreasing overall costs. It has also improved its quality, by enabling a higher degree of customization.
If you’ve ever seen a medical show like House or Scrubs. You’ve probably heard about how expensive and difficult it can be to get a new organ. There are many people in hospitals around the world on a waitlist for a new organ. And many of those people die because they don’t get one.
This also brings up an ethical issue, since when there are so few extra organs to go around, many hospitals face a dilemma over who should get the organ. There are people more at risk of death and others who are considered more ‘important’ or ‘influential,’ such that their survival would lead to greater benefits overall. But these are such difficult decisions to make, and at the end of the day, they’re all people whose lives matter and should be valued.
Now, instead of harvested organs, artificial organs are being engineered so that they can directly interface with living, human tissue. This allows more patients to get the organs they need. So that they can go on to live the rest of their lives.
Some devices like this already exist such as the cochlear implant, which allows some deaf people to hear again. However, some are still being developed like artificial hearts and kidneys.
5. Software as a Medical Device (SaMD)
According to Orthogonal, software as a medical device, or SaMD, is generally a software designed to perform medical functions. So, SaMDs are essentially created to treat, diagnose, prevent, or even cure diseases/conditions.
As in its name, SaMDs are software, not hardware. The SaMDs use data collected from devices, people, sensors, etc. to allow for better care and treatment. It combines and analyzes large amounts of data to more accurately. And efficiently predict diseases and disorders and then suggest treatments.
Currently, SaMDs are still being improved. The main balance for SaMD developers is making SaMDs faster and more efficient while maintaining high-quality results and safety. As they stand now, SaMDs are being encouraged by the FDA. Allowing SaMDs to be improved and developed but under government regulation.
Although our medical innovations are at the best they’ve ever been, they can still be improved. This has been demonstrated time and time again. With technological innovation improving our methods and tools for medical and health care practice.
The integration of technology into health care has overall shown higher quality. And better accessibility of common medical devices and treatments. However, there are still many outlets for technology and biology to combine. And lead to even better, safer, and cost-effective practices, a few of which were illustrated here.