5 Technologies Used in Medicine Today and in the Future
Technological developments often have unexpected applications in society. For example, no one could have anticipated the impact the Internet would have on society when it started in the U.S. military. Likewise, the health care industry has gained from advancements in unrelated technologies, such as Bluetooth low energy making wearable fitness trackers possible, and 3D printing allowing for cost-effective, bespoke prosthetics. In this article, we’ll look at some of the health tech that is changing the world.
What is medical technology?
Medical technology is every product, service, or solution using medical technology to improve people’s health by preventing, diagnosing, monitoring, and treating disease. Medical technology is so common and so integrated into our lives that it is difficult to imagine living without it.
Medical technologies today
Some of the most impactful medical technology examples of recent years include the following:
Medical imaging is the process of visualizing the interior parts of the body to diagnose, monitor, and treat disease or injury. Medical imaging consists of several different types of imaging:
- X-ray imaging
- Computed tomography (CT)
- Nuclear medicine and molecular imaging
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Ultrasound imaging
Medical imaging procedures and technologies continue to advance. As an example, mammography now offers the option of digital 3D and 4D imaging rather than film 2D, which was an industry standard for years.
The demand for wearable devices has grown since the release of Bluetooth in 2000. People today use wearables synced with their phone to track everything from their steps, physical fitness, and heartbeat, to their sleeping patterns. With an aging population in much of the developed world, wearables can help prevent chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, by helping patients monitor and improve their fitness. Devices that people already use today include the following:
- Fitness trackers and smart watches.
- ECG monitors.
- Blood pressure monitors.
- Patches that can measure in real time a diabetes patient’s blood sugar levels.
The trend for wearable tech with medical applications is towards so-called insideables and implantables, i.e. microcomputers that function inside the body. Insideables, also known as smart pills, are swallowed in the form of a hard capsule to send measured values or images, for example of the intestinal flora, directly from the digestive tract. Smart implants are being developed to automatically dose active ingredients in the body or to monitor the intake of medications.
Telehealth and telemedicine have become increasingly in demand since the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020. What is telemedicine? Telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services, while telehealth encompasses remote non-clinical services.
TeleMed is a telemedicine app developed by Acer Medical that offers patients remote consultations with health care providers. Its goal is to provide health care professionals and patients with a convenient, fast, and valuable telemedicine service. Health care practitioners can use it to provide services remotely to those in need, with myriad benefits:
- Control of infectious diseases: Doctors can use telemedicine appointments to prescreen patients for possible infectious disease.
- Better assessment: Specialty practitioners gain an advantage because they can see a patient in his or her home environment.
- Family connections: Telemedicine can make it easier for a family member to join in on virtual visits.
Technology for remote appointments will continue to advance beyond 1:1 doctor-patient video conferencing. For example, in response to the rising number of patients in need of behavioral therapy for mental health illnesses, we can expect to see technology that will facilitate group sessions, allowing multiple patients to be supported together.
Future medical technologies
More affordable than ever, 3D printers are booming for personal, professional, and educational use. They are also growing in use in the health care industry. 3D printers can be used to create implants and even joints to be used during surgery. 3D-printed prosthetics are increasingly popular as they are entirely bespoke, enabling them to match an individual’s measurements down to the millimeter.
Bio-printing is also an emerging medical technology. While it was initially groundbreaking to be able to regenerate skin cells for skin draughts for burn victims, this has slowly given way to even more exciting possibilities. Bio-printing will allow for the creation of artificial blood vessels, synthetic ovaries, and other organs. These organs can be grown inside a patient’s body to replace the original faulty one, and since they have been created from the patient’s own tissues, they avoid the problem of chronic organ rejection.
Virtual reality (VR)
VR is being used to improve training processes for medical professionals. Companies like Osso VR and ImmersiveTouch offer virtual reality solutions that surgeons can use during training and practice. If surgeons are able to practice their operations in advance, they may reduce the number of problems that occur in complex operations.
VR can also help speed up the recovery time for those doing physical therapy. With a gamified approach, VR can make therapy more enjoyable and thereby increase patient engagement. Neuro Rehab VR is a company that is collaborating with physicians and therapists to develop VR training exercises that are tailored to each patient’s therapeutic needs.
Challenges in health information technology
Health care cybersecurity is a growing concern. Recent years have seen hacking and IT security incidents steadily rise, and many health care organizations are struggling to keep their networks secure.
- Data breaches: Phishing attacks that target health care service providers can result in cybercriminals gaining access to databases of patient data.
- Internet of Things (IoT) devices are proliferating: This is resulting in an increased attack surface for cybercriminals to target. Health care providers now have to secure more connected medical devices than ever before.
- Malware, ransomware, and computer viruses are on the rise: Researchers in Israel created a computer virus that is capable of adding tumors into CT and MRI scans—malware designed to fool doctors into misdiagnosing patients.
Substantially addressing cybersecurity in health care will take cooperation from everyone. Doctors, nurses, IT professionals, and manufacturers all need to learn how to mitigate the risks present in the industry. Adding cybersecurity training to the curriculum at medical schools will aid in improving the situation.
As human development progresses, technologies and innovations will continue to find applications in the field of medicine in surprising and positive ways.
*The opinions reflected in this article are the sole opinions of the author and do not reflect any official positions or claims by Acer Inc.
About Ashley Buckwell: Ashley is a technology writer who is interested in computers and software development. He is also a fintech researcher and is fascinated with emerging trends in DeFi, blockchain, and bitcoin. He has been writing, editing, and creating content for the ESL industry in Asia for eight years, with a special focus on interactive, digital learning.
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