An Overview of Health Technology

The prevalence of health tech—and its importance in improving today’s health care problems—is indisputable. All generations are benefiting from modern digital health advances, from children to seniors. And people from all walks of life have adopted health tech wearables as trusted companions in their quest for maintaining and improving personal well-being.

These digital health devices are used to achieve fitness goals, improve and maintain health, and connect with health providers.

Hospitals and allied health professionals use modern innovation to improve health outcomes as well as to cut down the cost of care. The widespread use of technology is shaping the way we approach health and the way health care is delivered.

Health Monitoring Technology

New medical technology (medtech) is rapidly changing medicine and the way care providers monitor our health and well-being. Medtech continues to reach further and further, tackling issues that not long ago were considered the domain of science fiction, with such innovations like printable organs and robots performing medical care.

The consideration that computers may replace various health professionals in the future is a debate among many wellness professionals as well as members of the general public.

In many respects, heath tech has democratized care. Patients who used to be passive recipients of medical care are becoming equal partners in the journey. We are now able to access a variety of information relating to our health. We can track an assortment of our own physiological parameters on an ongoing basis using simple and affordable sensors and our own smartphones.

Smart devices have now become a primary conduit for tracking and monitoring well-being, from improving training and performance to detecting biometric abnormalities.

Our smart devices can be used to track not only our vital signs but also many common chronic conditions. They can even perform imaging procedures that used to require a costly doctor visit.

Another important area of technological development in health is replacing potentially dangerous and invasive procedures with ingestibles and nanotechnology. As progress continues at impressive rates, health tech has been recognized as an attractive avenue for investors and startups which are accelerating the rate of advancement in this area.

Mobile Health

Wireless medical devices are no longer a vision for the future; they are an important feature of modern medicine and are now helping us stay out of the hospital. Wearables are now able to continuously monitor our bodies and minds—including how we sleep, eat, and live—and then share this data with others. The Quantified Self movement was only the beginning. Mobile health monitoring is reaching beyond activity and diet—almost every aspect of our lives can now be tracked with digital devices guiding us to better health.

Smartphones and digital health devices have a central role in this process and are becoming indispensable in contemporary health care. Their jobs include communication and health promotion, monitoring patients, performing image scans—even the ability to perform simple procedures in some cases.

Caregivers and family members can see physiological metrics in real time remotely. This alone has revolutionized the monitoring process and response time and kept us more independent than we have ever been before. What used to require an admission to the hospital (and a lot of wires), can now be completed using simple and affordable sensors.

Smart devices can now send data to the cloud and dispatch information to whoever needs it. You can even create an entire ecosystem around your well-being, connected in real time, placing yourself at the center. 

Electronic Health Records

Although electronic health records (EHR) have been around for more than 30 years, they are only just now beginning to really transform health care.

As more and more hospitals adopt EHRs, the potential of this virtual system gets increasingly recognized.

Interoperable health data, accessible anywhere and anytime, are becoming the new gold standard. These systems are improving patient safety and satisfaction. However, many hurdles still stand in the way of EHRs—from organizational factors to negative attitudes to lack of established ways to practice.

Nonetheless, health care systems are heading towards an epoch in which accessing and sharing patient data in a timely manner will become the norm. Questions such as, “Where is the patient file?” will soon become obsolete. As EHRs become more interoperable, we will be able to benefit from continuous care no matter our locale. This will be particularly relevant if we find ourselves with multiple diagnoses and/or receiving care at different health centers.

Many health professionals and institutions are supportive of recent developments in health tech, recognizing that such systems can save lives and money.

Ongoing developments are strengthening the software of EHRs. For instance, improvements in cyber security are ensuring our privacy and confidentiality are protected at all times.

Population Health

Health technology is improving all of society. People worldwide can now be accessed and treated with the help of digital health devices. Better accessibility is also influencing the trajectory of research by giving scientists bigger samples to work with as well as putting them into contact with patients who would otherwise be underserved.

Health technology is exploring how to tackle some of modern society’s most prevailing diseases and ailments, such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases, as well as managing health conditions in less developed countries. At the same time, digital health technology is making health care more personalized, tailoring the treatment to each individual whenever possible and making health care more efficient.

Digital health is also increasing health literacy, which is vital to various global campaigns aiming to improve population health. These efforts include learning how to utilize the ubiquity of smartphones and other digital health devices to provide free and easy-to-access health information. As we become more empowered through health technology, our levels of engagement naturally increase. Many individuals now participate in online communities and educational platforms specific to conditions they are treating.

Telehealth

Waiting for a doctor’s appointment and visiting an office may become a thing of the past. Your health condition can now be discussed remotely with a qualified health care professional through telehealth. Health technology is not only keeping people out of hospitals and giving them more independence and autonomy, but it is giving them the opportunity to see their caregivers in the comfort of their own homes.

Two leading areas of medicine that are increasingly benefiting from telehealth and telemedicine are gerontology and the management of chronic diseases. Mental health is another emerging area of telemedicine, naturally reducing the risks of the stigma associated with treating mental illness.

Telehealth is also making some types of treatments accessible to patients who might not otherwise be able to obtain care—in many cases making the accessibility to specialists more timely and relevant.

A Digital Divide

As health care continues to move towards the digital world, many people are becoming concerned about the impact this might have on those that lack an affinity for technology. Health technology is connecting the world, but it can also make some communities and individuals feel left out.

On the other hand, the popularity of smartphones and other smart devices is helping to bridge the existing divide. Free medical apps and websites are now accessible to everyone. These powerful tools empower us through engaging content and sharing knowledge. However, it also needs to be recognized that not all wearables and devices are easy to integrate into our everyday lives.

It has also been suggested that certain vulnerable groups of people—such as the elderly, the economically challenged, and the debilitated—are difficult to design for and therefore passed over by those designing new applications and digital health devices.

Despite continued considerations to ensure we maximize the potential of health technology, it is clear that the rapid advancement of digital health and medical innovation will continue to ensure our health and well-being in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. 

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