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How New Technologies Are Affecting Healthcare

The emergence of new technology in healthcare has and will have profound effects on quality of life, as well as the ability to save more lives. From new inventions in imaging to spreading virtual care by internet and sensors, to machines that can resolve problems and make surgery unnecessary, the future of mankind’s health appears to be promising.

However, the present and future of our finances is not so promising. While the latest technologies save money by cutting down on hospital stays, bringing faster diagnoses, and rendering some expensive treatments obsolete, the cost of the technology itself drives health care costs up even higher. Here is a look at some of the new health innovations and their predicted effect on cost.

New Healthcare Advancements in Cancer Imaging

"Cancer Cell" by jscreationzsAn article from the University of Rochester Medical Center published on July 18th tells of the new multispectral photoacoustic imaging developed by Vikram Dogra, M.D. This health technology uses a combination of ultrasound and laser technology. Originally developed for better detection of prostate cancer, future diagnoses could include cancer of the breast, thyroid, kidney, and liver. For now, the invasive procedure is only effective at diagnosing prostate cancer 70 percent of the time and is not without discomfort and side effects; although further testing and improvements are in development. Dogra and his team believe this new hybrid technology will eventually be less expensive than the current method of biopsy, both for the machine itself and the actual testing.

Advancements and Applications in Virtual Healthcare

According to a May 7th article in USA Today, the time may soon come when a doctor visit does not even involve going to the doctor’s office. Through the use of computers and handheld devices, we are already experiencing a change in the way we are evaluated and treated. With the use of electronic record-keeping and the ability to immediately send prescriptions to a patient’s chosen pharmacy, health issues are much more easily tracked than they were just a couple of years ago, and printouts of test results are readily available to patients.

The shorter wait times, notification of errors in medication, and faster notification of urgent findings in testing also helps to save lives. These may result in a lowering of the cost of health care. One major issue may be a rising number of malpractice suits, but experts believe this can be prevented with education and new policies regarding which issues a physician can be held responsible for. One question to be explored is whether or not doctors would be held accountable for internet and computer glitches and failures. The answer as to how such situations will be handled remains to be seen.

Healthcare Advances: Testing on a Chip

Sponsored in part by the U.S. Army Research Office, Sony and Harvard are working together to develop “organs-on-chips”. These are small, flexible devices made of polymer. The channels on the chip are lined with living cells from organs. The idea is to test new treatments and medicines on these chips rather than on animals and humans. According to the Wyss Institute at Harvard, some success has already been seen with the lung-on-a-chip and they have hopes of eventually developing a chip that will contain living cells from the entire human body. The health care costs for these chips are not discussed; however, they do predict that testing with organs-on-chips will eventually save both time and money.

According to the developers and supporters of these new types of health technologies, the long-term effect will be lower costs for care, but according to The Hastings Center, a non-partisan research institution, economists claim that annual cost increases by 40 to 50 percent are a direct result of new technologies and the only way to drive costs down is to put better controls into place by examining our priorities. Daniel Callahan, author of the article from the Hastings Center, claims that the steep cost increase in health care is a political problem. One important question we may ask ourselves is whether we should be placing greater emphasis on quality of life rather than trying to save more lives.

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Sarah Daren is a writer who creates informative articles relating to the field of health. In this article, she explains how new technologies are affecting healthcare and aims to encourage further study with an ADU Bachelor in Science of Nursing.

Image courtesy of jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Comments

  1. I would add the fact that most practitioners are now using some sort of electronic patient intake forms. This dramatically reduces health care costs for large organizations.

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