Harsh Dharwad, President and CEO, Nihon Kohden USLab
Our understanding of the intricacies of the human body have been driven by scientific and medical advancements that date back to the earliest civilizations. But while the human mind has been at the core of all medical breakthroughs, it is the power of technology that is revolutionizing healthcare today and will continue to do so well into the future.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the health system’s response to COVID-19.
The pandemic has accelerated digital health, particularly, as hospitals turn into little more than COVID wards. Patients with unrelated issues are opting for alternate treatment facilities, such as ambulatory surgery centers, to lower the risk of exposure to the virus. Meanwhile, physicians are conducting office visits through video conferences and leveraging remote monitoring technologies— options that would not have been available to the mainstream even a decade ago—to reduce the spread of the virus. While COVID-19 has abetted this shift, this change will remain long past COVID-19.
But the impact of technology on healthcare will continue to echo far beyond the pandemic.
Manufacturers and engineers must utilize innovations, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, so we can provide solutions within the surgery centers and hospitals. With these new advancements, doctors will have access to some of the most innovative diagnostics and treatments ever imagined.
Physicians have already benefited from technological advancements with the advent of clinical decision support tools that can assist them in making informed choices about a patient’s care—choices rooted in the latest studies, findings and evidence that can ensure the best outcomes for patients. The next evolution in clinical decision support will focus on the valuable information gathered from medical devices, such as patient monitors. The data provided from medical devices is instrumental to exemplary patient care, but it can be difficult to synthesize all the information at a clinician’s disposal and identify salient trends.
Powered by algorithms, medical technology will help us to take all the information collected by medical devices, such as patient monitors, sort through it, analyze it, and provide reliable insights necessary to treat an individual patient. This will allow physicians to assess a patient holistically rather than looking at individual parameters, which can aid in identifying trends and predicting conditions before they even happen. Although a physician can never be replaced in the treatment paradigm, the coming evolution in clinical decision support could ultimately lead to better outcomes while saving time and money.
While we are on the verge of some incredible advancements in healthcare, there is still a long way to go and a lot that needs to be reimagined. The future of digital health lies within the way we educate our engineers and doctors. Medicine will have to reconsider the importance of data, the ability to process it, and the value it holds. The challenge behind this is that there will be a learning curve associated with the advancements and new ways of working to which clinicians will need to adapt.
For engineers, it is important to understand, the standard in healthcare today and how conditions are treated, so they can develop innovations that are specific to the needs of the industry and work within the clinical workflow. It is also crucial to help clinicians understand how these advancements will benefit them, so they are more likely to adopt and adapt to the changing times.
Medical technology is no longer based on one bit of information. We now need to look at all aspects of the patient. To get there, we need to collaborate across all sectors with an eye toward what we can do better in the future.