Technology is rapidly improving. This means, we are presented with the opportunity to use new technological advancements in a clinical setting. This will help us as medics help to increase diagnosis, improve medical knowledge worldwide, and even aid the performance of surgery. Before we know it, our operations may be performed by robots! It is increasingly important that medics are technologically competent, as they may be running some of these machines and systems.
I am going to discuss some technologies that are already in place, and some which will be a possibility in the future.
Recently, the technology has been developed to sequence a human genome. In 2000, scientists in with the International Human Genome Project released a rough draft of the human genome to the public. For the first time the world could read the complete set of human genetic information and begin to discover what our roughly 23,000 genes do. If find a quick, cheap way to sequence every human genome, not only will we develop a much greater understanding of human genes and all of the surrounding fields, but we will be able to identify cures for many “incurable” diseases, such as cancers and HIV, saving millions of lives in the process. By understanding the genetic causes and links to disease we can spend more and more attention on preventing disease, for example, doctors have developed a genetic test for a gene associated with prostate cancer, and there is a drug available that greatly lowers the risk for prostate cancer in the future.
Technology can be used for real-time diagnosis. The recently invented intelligent surgical knife (iKnife) was developed by Zoltan Takats of Imperial College London and works by using an old technology where an electrical current heats tissue to make incisions with minimal blood loss. With the iKnife, the vaporized smoke is analysed by a mass spectrometer to detect the chemicals in the biological sample. This means it can identify whether the tissue is malignant real-time, diagnosing tumours.
The digital contact lens patented by Google aims to change the course of diabetes management by measuring blood glucose levels from tears. This is a much less invasive method of permanently managing glucose levels in the blood, and will much more rapidly show signs of hyperglycemia, which can damage the vessels that supply blood to vital organs, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, vision problems, and nerve problems.
Another recent technological phenomenon is virtual reality. This is already being used in a medical setting, to aid the training of young medics and other health professionals, allowing them to complete virtual ward rounds. This is an ideal training method because it allows students to interact with the environment around them, as if they were a real doctor on a real ward. They can interact with patients, other healthcare professionals (which may be other students also in virtual reality), helping them to learn teamwork skills, and allows them to prescribe doses and solve problems. This technology is connected to ‘Watson’, the most advanced artificial intelligence globally, who can read twenty million scientific papers in eight minutes, and even diagnose tumours! Overall, this experience i believe cannot be underestimated. Nothing else allows training as alike to the realities of being a medic as this.
As for technologies that could be used globally in the future, here are a couple ideas!
We could use sensors that allow statistical analysis to prevent illness in the first place! Firstly, we could distribute heart rate monitors to everybody across the country. These would record heart rates, sending off to a database where they could be analysed for identification of any developing health problems. This could predict cardiovascular health (and therefore cardiovascular disease, being at the minute the umber one killer of men and women), atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), Arrhythmia, diabetes, an under or over active thyroid, or dehydration. The data that these monitors collect could be sent off to a database where someone (or a robot) could analyse the data to decide if anybody needed to be called in to see a doctor due to abnormal cardiovascular activity, therefore people may even be called in before anything serious develops, meaning something will be done to prevent worsening of the problem. This technology would reduce serious cardiovascular issues, reduce diagnosis time, and increase overall general health.
A similar idea would be to install monitors on everybody’s toilets in their home. This would measure the waste produced by us, the amount, the colour, the shape, and similarly, send off this data to help diagnose problems more quickly. This will aid diagnosis of many problems, including (but not limited to); stomach or ileum bleeds, pancreatic cancer, hepatitis, cancer of the bile ducts, cirrhosis, gallstones, chronic pancreatitis, diet issues, IBS or Crohn’s disease. These faster diagnosis and treatment will lead to a much more efficient, quicker and more accurate health service. However, there may be some problems with this, such as: someone may not use the same toilet all the time, it may be seen as an invasion of privacy and different people may use the same toilet.
There are endless ways that technology can help the enhance healthcare system. Simply, social media is a tool that we cannot underestimate. We could use this as a way to spread important information instantly, such as the importance of washing your hands, the importance of exercise or a balanced diet. Also, robotic techniques have been developed to to improve the accuracy of procedures, and to minemalise surgical invasion, subsequently shortening recovery time. All of the technological medical improvements are revolutionary, and if we take full advantage of the technology that is available to us, I really believe we will do amazing things, and change the face of healthcare in the future!
Please comment below any ideas you might have! Thank you for reading!