While most of us think of senior citizens as technically challenged, the fact is that more than 18% of those 65 and older are connected and sharing content online. Generation X is now in its 50's and poised to join them. All these people networking through the Internet opens up access to healthcare services.
Mobile apps, websites, and communication software will continue to improve and expand as patients and healthcare facilities increase their demands. Web portals are set up for patients to check their own bills, test results, prescriptions, or schedule their own appointments. Teleconferencing software allows doctors and nurses to do visual examinations or offer instruction in real time over the Internet. This is ideal for busy PRactitioners and patients who don't have the time or means to make it to the office.
Wearables like Fitbits can monitor and record vitals such as respiration and blood pressure. We have apps that can track fitness, nutrition, and medication programs. All of these can feed data to computer systems along with prior medical records to give physicians a much better overall picture of treatment progress. This connectivity of doctors, patients, and smart devices will transform the way healthcare is provided.
The Internet is only the beginning. Robots designed not to replace humans, but do specific tasks accurately and tirelessly, are appearing in every industry. Healthcare workers are in such demand that many positions go unfilled. Overworked staff members could be greatly assisted by intelligent and programmable tools.
Robots are being developed that are outfitted with screens to create live dialogues with healthcare staff via Wi-Fi. Robots can perform lab tests, assist patients and visitors, make and store visual records, answer patient calls, deliver meals or other necessities, and much more. Routine tasks can be scheduled and performed by automated devices to free up doctors and nurses for more crucial activities.
Surgeons are using robots that provide remotely-controlled instruments for steady manipulation, magnified high-definition surgical views, and live feedback on patient vital signs. Prosthetics, high-tech wheelchairs, and exoskeletons are another form of robotics providing mobility and function to more patients. As demand grows and technology improves, robotics of one kind or another will appear in every aspect of medicine.
Today's health care often involves a growing collection of digital images for many patients. MRIs, X-rays, CT scans, and more become a permanent part of patient medical records and must be stored in computer memory, but in such a way that they can be readily accessed and shared as needed in the course of treatment.
A radiology PACS (picture archiving and communication system) is becoming the favored solution. It allows healthcare organizations to manage an assortment of images. Digital images can be promptly recalled not only by the local health care provider, but specialists around the country or around the world. The PACS market is expected to surpass $5 billion in value by next year.
Cross-platform storage alternatives allow these images to be displayed on a variety of PACS software. This includes not just radiological images but related documentation on treatments and procedures. Facilities with access to these systems can more effectively treat traveling patients or accident victims they've never seen before. In the future, a patient's complete medical records can be available no matter where they are.
If technical development over the last couple of decades is any indicator, the future will see all these concepts combined into one comprehensive healthcare system. Coupled with intelligent data collection, artificial intelligence, and big data analysis, this will create a cost-effective resource of immense value to insurers, healthcare professionals, and especially to patients themselves.
This guest post is courtesy of Greg Dastrup.