Technology has had a massive impact on many different elements of society during the 21st century and that is certainly the case where healthcare is concerned.
Telehealth and telemedicine have become buzzwords in the sector over the past few years, with an increasing number of healthcare providers incorporating these elements into their offering.
Using wearables for remote patient monitoring programs is just one of a plethora of ways that tech has changed the way that services are delivered.
Tech has also changed the way hospitals are designed and function, impacting elements such as cleaning, check-in processes, security and much more.
With staff under increasing pressure, artificial intelligence tech has also become far more prevalent in numerous healthcare functions.
This can be as simple as utilising symptom-checking chatbots to reduce the strain on administrative personnel, to higher level uses such as machine learning to detect serious illnesses like cancer.
Augmented and virtual reality have also started to make their mark, while data analytics also now plays a key role in the delivery of successful healthcare.
Read on as we look at some of the exciting tech solutions that are impacting healthcare and find out what respected experts have been saying about those developments.
Virtual Care and Remote Medicine
Best-selling author, Bernard Marr, is a strong advocate of the benefits of virtual healthcare and remote medicine.
Marr argues that every enterprise will have to become a healthcare company in the future, to safeguard both their employees and customers.
With remote working practices on the rise, employers will increasingly have to leverage tech to ensure that their workers are taking the right precautions to safeguard their health and wellbeing.
Marr says that the healthcare sector will also be forced to adapt to ensure that it can cope with the increased demand that will be placed on its services.
“Remote medicine allows medical professionals to squeeze more patient consultations into their busy schedules,” he said. “This is a particularly vital consideration in highly populated countries, where doctors are in short supply.
“Another facet of this trend will be the ongoing development of robotic and autonomous healthcare assistants capable of working in hospitals or right in people’s homes.
“These can also have mental health implications – companion robots are being introduced into care homes. They were found to be successful at reducing symptoms of loneliness and social isolation.”
Concerns over health, economic, employment, environmental and political issues are amongst the numerous factors that have an effect on people’s mental health.
With services in this area often underfunded, many individuals have started to turn to online medical services like these to seek virtual teletherapy.
These aim to make therapy much more accessible to the people who need it, whether for basic mental health advice or more in-depth counselling.
The convenience of these services makes them hugely appealing and are also beneficial to people who may be fearful of face-to-face meetings with therapists.
There are numerous options available including instant messaging, live chats, video conferencing, telephone calls or mobile apps.
Many of these utilise proven techniques such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to address issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder and more.
Psychology expert, Sal Raichbach, believes that virtual teletherapy has the potential to strengthen more traditional mental health services.
“Sadly, only a small percentage of people actively seek professional help for their mental health problems,” he said.
“This could be for any number of reasons – they may not be physically able to leave their homes due to severe anxiety or lack of mobility, or they may not have the financial means.”
“Apps allow for privacy and confidentiality and can be a safe space for individuals who may be too ashamed to admit their mental health issues in person or who may feel that they will be negatively labelled or stigmatised by others.
“The privacy of using an app gives some individuals the feeling of separation they need while still being able to find answers to their questions within the comfort of their own homes.”
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) to support healthcare processes has increased in recent times and this trend has been forecast to continue for many years to come.
Health expert, Trisha Swift, promotes the notion of ‘whole-person care’, a movement that is supported by various innovative technologies.
These include fitness tracking, meal planning, guided meditation, virtual exercise classes and even AI-based behavioural or lifestyle techniques.
These are designed to give people more individual responsibility for the health and wellbeing, thus helping to ease the strain on the overstretched healthcare system.
“As our world becomes increasingly digital, high-tech holistic medicine is needed for the viability of whole-person care,” she said. “Healthcare tech leaders should incorporate more use of tech solutions that address the root cause of disease and illness.
“This is one way for a care provider to share the ownership of health maintenance with their patients. When used effectively, digital health solutions, AI and lifestyle applications can advance the health of individuals, who together create stronger communities and populations.
“When health scales at the population level, we will organically become a healthier nation as a result. High-tech holistic medicine can push whole-person care to the bleeding edge of our health care industry to ultimately prevent disease so we can, over time, reduce cost and dependency on the over-burdened sick-care system.”
Tech in Healthcare – The Final Word
Technology has already helped to transform many facets of healthcare since the turn of the century and this will continue through 2021 and beyond.
Some of the tech is already extremely well established, while other elements have been tipped to become much more entrenched over the coming year.
Other tech such as voice devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) are also likely to make their mark as healthcare companies explore different avenues.
It is highly likely that some of these technologies may spawn unexpected developments that could further transform the future landscape.
Quite what the healthcare industry will look like in just a few years is anyone’s guess, but these are unquestionably exciting times for the entire sector.