How Technology is Changing Patient Care in 2021
Just like any other area of our lives, healthcare has been heavily digitalized in the recent past. Technology is revolutionizing modern medicine, and this influence is especially noticeable in patient care.
With numerous technically advanced eHealth solutions, doctors can do their work more efficiently, while patients can feel less anxious about an upcoming hospital visit.
In general, any technology that allows health practitioners to connect with their clientele is called patient engagement technology. According to one article, such tools “have patient and healthcare navigation capabilities, support chronic disease management programs, and connect patients with their care using remote patient monitoring capabilities.”
There is a wide variety of patient engagement solutions, and due to high competition, digital medical solutions are becoming more affordable and accessible. In this article, we’ll take a look at three of the most influential technologies for patient care.
Telemedicine has proven itself as one of the most helpful eHealth tools during the COVID-19 pandemic. When it comes to patient care, telehealth is invaluable now, as it offers contactless medical consultations that take less time than a traditional hospital visit. This technology is also great when it comes to an urgent need for a healthcare specialist, for example, when someone is having a stroke.
The apps offered to users are mainly direct-to-consumer (DTC) telemedicine solutions and can be delivered in three primary ways:
- By a care provider with whom the patients have an established, traditional doctor-patient relationship. This option is the most comfortable for many as you can choose whether to visit your doctor in person or digitally.
- By a different care provider from the same organization as the primary care provider. This approach is also quite convenient as the two healthcare providers will be able to share patients' data and use it for treatment purposes more easily.
- By a care provider from an organization outside the patients’ medical home, where there is little or no previous doctor-patient relationship or coordination with the patients’ primary care provider. Such telemedicine companies are independent and can either cooperate with insurance companies and medical organizations or get direct payments from users for the offered services.
As people become more tech-savvy, they sometimes feel more comfortable with having an online medical consultation. Meanwhile, doctors get a chance to work with more patients when using HIPAA compliant teletherapy. Thus, telehealth is projected to become even better adopted in 2021.
2. Artificial intelligence
AI helps healthcare professionals with decision making and data organization. It also allows medical staff to stress out less because of their job.
When talking about more specific uses in patient care, artificial intelligence is great for diagnosing diseases and providing personalized treatment. Both these processes can require a lot of time and resources, so AI helps to optimize them. This is especially helpful during a healthcare crisis like the current pandemic.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning can be trained to follow the same patterns doctors do when making a diagnosis. There is one obstacle on the way of AI/ML becoming the ultimate tool for disease diagnosing: it needs a lot of digital examples to learn from. Only a fraction of all data is currently available as electronic health records, even in countries with advanced medical systems. Thus, the full potential of artificial intelligence in healthcare will probably be realized later than 2021.
Still, there are cases where an accurate diagnosis can be made by an AI algorithm now. According to Data Revenue, they include:
- CT scans for lung cancer or stroke detection;
- electrocardiograms and cardiac MRI images for the risk assessment of sudden cardiac death or heart diseases;
- skin images for skin conditions identification;
- eye images for diabetic retinopathy indication.
AI is extremely useful for patient care in the form of chatbots, too. A patient can get an initial estimation of their condition without a doctor appointment. After answering a few questions, you can at least know the first steps of treating your disease, which can be life-saving before you get a chance to visit a hospital.
The Internet of Things also has several great uses in healthcare and patient care in particular. Specifically, this technology is a savior for hospitals and other medical facilities as it helps to streamline the treatment process and organize all the activities that can be unified by an IoT system.
We all know that patients are often irresponsible when it comes to taking their medicine or doing something else that's part of their treatment process. You can create an IoT app, connect it with IoT devices, so healthcare professionals can keep an eye on their patients and remind them about a necessary activity, whether the patient is in a hospital or at home. In fact, the medical alert market is already well stocked with a number of devices, as you can see here.
If the Internet of Things technology is used in hospital rooms to modernize and digitalize them, the results can be outstanding. The doctors can keep track of the treatment process and ensure optimal patient condition at all times. Meanwhile, the patients and their loved ones can also take a detailed look at the treatment. This helps to understand what are the exact procedures assigned to you, as well as get updates on the treatment process.
IoT can be vital if an emergency happens, too. With the Internet of Things, it's possible to send both manual and automatic alerts to medical staff if the patient's condition gets worse unexpectedly, resulting in timely treatment.
Besides, IoT works great in combination with AI/ML. All the treatment data processed through the Internet of Things system can be used to create and enhance algorithms for assigning correct treatment with the help of just artificial intelligence.
A modern human can't imagine their life without technology anymore. Healthcare is an important part of our lives, especially in 2020, and it will likely remain so for at least the first half of 2021. For that reason, it's crucial to use technological advancement to enhance medicine, as it will benefit both healthcare staff and their patients.
Thankfully, we have the tools required to improve patient care at our hands. If solutions like telemedicine, AI, IoT, and others are used wisely, we will be better prepared for another health crisis. But hopefully, we won't have to face anything like the current pandemic and will use digital health solutions in a healthier world overall.
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash