Medicine has had a troubling history with credibility and reputation. Not too long ago, doctors were more often than not hacks and butchers, and our ideas of modern medicine were so crude that you’d have better luck just riding your disease out with good food and healthy company. Hospitals were known to be dirty and dangerous during the Industrial Revolution, and the clergy didn’t help instill much faith in medicine.
But that changed with the advent of the germ theory and anesthesia, and the evolution of these two into the strict regulations and conformities we’ve become used to as of late. With lobbying power over television and the media, surgeons and doctors changed the image of the quack to the professional with the starched coat and stethoscope.
Hospitals Are Aging
Since then, hospitals have hit another hurdle – digital lagging. As USA Today points out, healthcare is behind – especially when it comes to utilizing the advantages of web-based computing and the Internet. Disruptive technologies have leaked into major industries everywhere, from education to transportation and food – law and medicine always seem to be the last places for these disruptive ideas to penetrate, but they are slowly coming through.
According to Ponemon Institute survey, over $8 billion are lost annually in productivity and increased patient discharge times across all US hospitals. The productivity cost alone adds up to $5 billion annually, the study found.
Widespread change, on the other hand, has been a question of adoption and penetration. The tech to improve medicine is out there, and it’s implementable – with great, widespread benefits. Hospitals simply have to take a proactive step in the right direction.
Electronic Medical Records
The simplest implementation of modern tech in medicine today is cataloguing. Between outsourced services and the speed and cost-efficiency of today’s cloud-based servers, hospitals could drastically improve their filing system and eradicate a huge amount of paper and useless tech by adopting a secure, encrypted cloud server system for their medical records.
Even the techniques and standards for the cataloguing itself have improved. EMR transcription today is no longer a question of hiring an in-house transcriber and waiting hours for a professional transcription – hospitals today can utilize services like Eyered Transcription to take full advantage of both their own time, and the premium-quality services that transcription services provide. And today, they are much more competitive and feature-filled than they have been in the past.
Systemized Collection of Practices
One of the greatest tragedies among hospitals is the loss of a patient who could have been saved, if practices had been updated. Globally, the quality of medicine across the world carries extreme discrepancies – and not just because of a lack of training or equipment.
There is a general lack of knowledge and intercommunication between doctors globally – or at least, there was. Modern technology – especially through the Internet – offers a potential future wherein doctors can share the newest standardized practices instantaneously. By having the know-how available online in a format wherein it can be immediately looked up, doctors save themselves the trouble of slugging great large medical books onto a table, and dutifully scanning their pages for some clue to treating a rarer condition.
All this is especially useful for combating epidemics, which, as populations continue to explode, become a greater threat without global intercommunication between hospitals, governments and doctors in updated practices and necessary precautions.
Digital Microbiology and Stem Cell Research
Another tool that has taken a step into an unknown territory within medicine is the digital analysis of disease, and the ability to study the effects of something on humans without questionable ethical action.
Through computer modeling and analytical software, simulations can be created to explore and test the effects of any given virus or bacteria. As we learn more about microbiology, it becomes easier to study its potential under the digital microscope, rather than an actual sample within a Petri dish.
Adult stem cell research has also shown itself to be more effective than animal testing, especially due to the removal of the lack of compatibility between potential human cures tested on non-human subjects.
As the Baltimore Sun pointed out as far back as 2006, animal testing is rendered effectively obsolete – yet the Washington Post pointed out that over $150 million were spent this year alone on completely useless studies, at the cost of tortured animals. It’s high time for healthcare and research to take a big step into the 21st century, on all fronts.
There’s more. Big data is useful for more than just consumer information and behavioral analytics – it can be used to aggregate the kind of data necessary to effectively and reliably test and study the health factors of an entire region, which is especially useful when studying and tracing epidemics and viral infections. Data is the future, for better or for worse, and it’s important that medicine embraces it responsibly to save lives.