Technology has played an important part in the provision of medical care for years, from IT systems that manage patient records to monitoring devices and more. Now, the boundaries are being pushed even further, with breakthroughs that will permanently change how and where healthcare is provided. Terms such as the Internet of Things and telemedicine may be unfamiliar right now, but these tech-infused care systems have the potential to shrink waiting times and make medical care more efficient.
How will digital healthcare be introduced to patients?
Although digital solutions have clear benefits, patients are not always enthusiastic about change. That’s why medical professionals, from physicians to nurse practitioners, will play a fundamental role when it comes to building confidence in telehealth care. Working on the frontline in hospitals and clinics, they will help to ensure these new technologies have a positive impact on patient outcomes. Indeed, nurse practitioner statistics reveal they occupy the top spot in healthcare jobs, making them a trusted source of information for patients. Nurses who are interested in taking on this advanced practice role can begin their post-graduate training at Baylor University. As the course is delivered online, students experience minimal disruption to their home or working life and may be entitled to financial aid.
What has triggered the recent uptake of digital health innovations?
According to a 2022 study, Covid-19 had a huge impact on the industry’s attitude to digital technology. The urgent need for treatments and vaccinations meant that some trends quickly gained traction and investment. Many of these are still at the forefront of supporting and extending the work of professionals.
Monitoring patients with the Internet of Things
Often referred to as IoT, the Internet of Things is made up of various physical objects that use software to record and report data. For patient care, these include wearables such as watches and monitors with onboard apps for recording health statistics. Coupled with machine learning, IoT in a medical setting can increase the usefulness of established medical techniques. They are often used to prompt a patient to take their medication, so they can carry on with their life without having to self-monitor.
Wearables put patients in control
Wearables can dispatch real-time insights to doctors and keep them updated on a patient’s progress. As a result, physicians may feel more confident in reducing the number of appointments a person needs. In the long run, this could lower costs for medical facilities, but also for patients, as they can take control of their condition more effectively and avoid the need for frequent hospital visits.
Telehealth for swifter appointments
Telehealth refers to the use of technologies such as smartphones, tablets and computers to provide healthcare. During the pandemic, when face-to-face appointments were avoided, this became a go-to solution for patients in need. It is still an important method of accessing care for people who find it hard to get to a medical facility, either because they have mobility issues or because there is a lack of transport in their area.
Remote appointments are not suitable for all, but when no tests or examinations are needed, they can make frequent check-ups easier to manage. Caregivers can make regular calls to patients throughout their treatment, so the problem of missed appointments is minimized.
A seamless experience through digital tech
As well as delivering care, telehealth provides patients with an easier experience when it comes to ordering their medication, scheduling an appointment or asking for advice. Emails, phone calls and online services are becoming a crucial element in health care plans across the United States and are helping to create a more consistent patient experience.
Maintaining a healthy workforce with wellness apps
Apps that were once intended for a limited audience, now have a far wider uptake. Although healthcare is incredibly rewarding, people in the profession need to care for themselves, as well as their patients. Wellness apps could be a simple way of doing so. They allow a person to tailor the experience to suit themselves, monitoring metrics such as blood sugar levels, hours of exercise and quality of sleep. This information provides the user with more control over their health, but also offers programs and personalized challenges to promote a healthier lifestyle.
Apps can be equally rewarding for patients who need to improve their overall health or one aspect of their lifestyle. They make monitoring exercise and diet effortless, but also provide much-needed motivation. From weekly notifications to reminders about daily goals, they assist patients who need to stay focused and inspired.
Virtual reality for training and patient care
Augmented reality and virtual reality are generally considered gaming technologies, but they have a range of practical functions in healthcare. Along with providing an innovative new way to treat patients, VR and AR can also help hospitals and universities develop more efficient training programs. Primarily, headsets are used to prepare a surgeon for a particular type of operation or train new surgeons in a range of techniques. Along with building the surgeon’s skillset and familiarizing them with procedures, VR can also be used to show a patient what will happen during their treatment.
Aside from surgical benefits, AR and VR digital technology is also supporting patients with mental health struggles. For people who experience post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety or agoraphobia, headsets can create simulations of real life for them to explore in a controlled way. As the patient understands that they are moving through an artificial environment, one that they can choose to leave at any time, they feel more confident in facing their fears.
Digital technologies will continue to drive change
The pandemic pushed many of these technologies forward, making patients and healthcare providers more confident in their use. A few years later, their effectiveness is still felt and funding for digital healthcare remains high. Although improvements will always be needed, with the backing of the industry and the trust of patients, these innovations will continue to offer better outcomes and health equity for all.