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Medical professionals are increasingly relying on technology to make the process of delivering medical care more efficient. The COVID-19 pandemic in particular has had a huge impact in how the healthcare industry has adapted to new technologies much quicker than previously.
- 47% research doctors
- 38% research hospitals and medical facilities
- 77% book medical appointments
And that’s only the beginning. Reliance on IT will only grow as new technologies like VR and AR come into use; the use of AI has seen a decline in human error when administering patient care; wearable devices can be used to track patient care and health remotely, saving both patients and healthcare workers valuable time and money, and freeing up medical centre appointments for more urgent needs.
The rise of telemedicine and the Internet of Medical Things
The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is the collection of medical devices and applications that connect healthcare IT systems using online computer networks. IoMT devices connect to cloud platforms where the data is stored and analysed. It includes:
- Remote patient monitoring
- Tracking patient medication orders
- Tracking patient location
- Wearable healthcare devices
- Measuring patients’ vital signs through analytic dashboards and sensors on hospital beds
Telemedicine relies heavily on using IoMT to remotely monitor patients in their own homes. Hugely beneficial on both sides, the treatment spares patients from travelling whenever they have a medical question or change in their condition. It saw a rapid increase when the COVID-19 pandemic began; between March 2020 and October 2021, over 88,000 healthcare workers delivered 78.3 million telehealth services to 15.6 million patients in Australia.
Paired with smartphone applications, telemedicine allows the patients to send the information and updates to their doctors at just a few touches. With such ease and accessibility, it’s no wonder that the global IoMT market is predicted to grow to $254.2 billion in 2026.
The importance of big data in healthcare
Big data is extremely large data sets that can be analysed computationally to reveal patterns and trends, particularly relating to human behaviour. In healthcare, this refers to the vast quantities of data – created by the mass adoption of the internet and digitisation of all sorts of information, including health records and information – too large or complex for traditional technology to make sense of.
The exponential growth of data has made it possible for people to learn more about their health and take better control of their lives. It is now possible for researchers to study not just isolated diseases or conditions, but the complexities of health and the factors that affect it.
With the help of big data, healthcare professionals can make sure that all patients are getting the right treatment in the right time. It also helps in identifying which methods are working best for specific medical conditions. It can even be used to predict when a patient might get an acute case of asthma or diabetes before it happens.
Data analytics has become a key component in healthcare research, as it can be used to identify trends and patterns in data that may not be obvious. This includes early detection of trends and patterns in data that affect health, such as epidemics and pandemics.
- Preventing medication errors: big data can reduce medication errors that sometimes due to human error by analysing the patient’s records with all medications prescribed and flagging anything that seems out of place.
- Identifying high-risk patients: using predictive analytics, some hospitals have been able to reduce the number of ER visits by identifying high-risk patients, increasing the better care for these patients.
- Reducing hospital costs and wait time: big data holds enormous potential with cutting healthcare costs. Predictive analytics can help with staffing by predicting admission rates over the next few weeks.
- Enhancing patient engagements: wearable devices, like Fitbits, that monitor steps taken, hours slept, heart rate, and others on a daily basis could help physicians improve patient outcomes, as well as reduce doctor visits for patients.
- Electronic health record (EHR) use: EHRs make accessing patient data much easier and faster.
Using AI to reduce human error
The healthcare sector has been slow to adopt AI, but now it’s starting to catch up. In Australia, it’s estimated medical error results in 18,000 deaths every year. However, introducing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) use in healthcare has made significant strides in reducing human error: decreased medical errors, increased productivity, increased diagnosis and treatment accuracy, and reduced waiting time for patients.
Using digital workers also means frontline workers can spend less time on admin and more time focusing on improving their patients’ quality of care. These include:
- Patient diagnostics: AI can connect systems and streamline clinical processes to shorten the waiting time between tests, results, and treatment.
- Patient self-service: this surged in use and popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic; medical centres replaced staff with digital worker kiosks so patients could register themselves.
- Patient engagement: AI can be used to create patient portals that manage treatment plans and auto-schedule follow-up appointments and reminders.
AI and ML usage have also changed the way doctors diagnose and treat patients by providing them with more data to work with; for instance, AI algorithms beat doctors in forecasting heart attacks by identifying patterns like geographic location, population and age groups, race, ethnicity, and sex, which helps to prevent the worst outcome.
Wearable devices and the cloud
The use of wearable devices like Fitbits has steadily gained popularity over the last decade. Medical health professionals are able to gather data from their patients passively and from afar to determine the likelihood of a major health event.
Some of the most common devices include:
- Heart rate sensors
- Exercise trackers/step counters
- Sweat meters (used mostly by diabetics to monitor blood sugar levels)
- Oximeters (used by people with respiratory illnesses like asthma)
Wearable technology saves both patients and healthcare workers much time and money, particularly for patients who live in regional areas. Travelling to hospitals or medical centres can become costly and very time-consuming; wearable devices can instead be used to track their conditions and health, ensuring that they only need visit their GP when necessary.
The importance and immediacy of wearable devices has already been proven; a study conducted by UCLA saw Fitbit activity trackers were able to more accurately evaluate patients with ischemic heart diseases by recording their heart rate and accelerometer data at the same time.
Virtual reality isn’t just for gamers anymore
Headsets and specially designed software are giving medical professionals a whole new way to learn and deliver healthcare – and the closure of classrooms and clinical spaces over the pandemic has accelerated this growth.
Virtual reality (VR) devices for healthcare have given frontline workers more options:
- Lifelike surgical training programs
- Supplemental clinical experience
- Ability to view images with newly detailed perspective
- Reduce skill fade by 52%
- Improve retention by up to 75%
In its use as a learning experience, VR could be revolutionary. Very few students can look over a surgeon’s shoulder during a surgery – but with a virtual reality camera, surgeons can stream operations, allowing students to be present using VR goggles. The possibilities are seemingly limitless and could fast-track the learning process for medical students.
The future of healthcare and tech
Innovations to better care for our quality of life, not to mention the ease and accessibility of our care, are growing through ingenuity and technology advancements every year. From wearable devices that can be easily used and tracked by patients, to advanced VR and AI technology which will increase learning capabilities and opportunities, tech in the healthcare industry is looking to a positive future.
To learn more about tech trends in the medical industry and they can improve the quality of your health and care, contact the IT experts at INTELLIWORX today.