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Digitising Healthcare

Smart technology is aiding early and accurate diagnosis, providing sophisticated treatment solutions

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Technology enabled patient care is driving greater efficiency in the healthcare industry. Patient-centric solutions powered by technology are improving patient care and management, resulting in better patient engagement and satisfaction. Smart technology is aiding early and accurate diagnosis, providing sophisticated treatment solutions, and in several cases, enabling patients to self-monitor. While the patient is getting empowered, hospitals are becoming smarter.

The technology you can wear

Wearable technology is aiding seamless and accurate health monitoring. For example, the advent of wearable devices supported by mobile technology can now allow a doctor to monitor a patient’s vitals remotely. This technology has in-built patient monitoring devices which provide information on heart rhythm, blood pressure, breathing patterns and blood glucose level. The patient can also check their weight, pulse rate, glucose and oxygen levels through mobile applications and upload their results which doctors can access real-time for diagnosis and treatment.  

Most recently, Apple unveiled the Apple Watch Series 4, which has an ECG app capable of generating an ECG within 30 seconds, after a user places their finger on their smart watch’s digital crown. Classified as a Class II device by the FDA gives it the assurance of safety and efficacy. 

Anytime, anywhere doctor

Telemedicine is of immense benefit to patients in remote locations. Offering convenience, it helps them gain access to doctors without physical travel. This aids better management of chronic diseases and consistent post-operative monitoring. As patients connect with their doctors through video call, it saves them both cost and money. 

Telemedicine offers other benefits too. A lot of patients with mental illnesses prefer seeking telemedicine consult within the privacy of their homes. This helps them avoid the social stigma associated with the disorder. 

The USFDA recently approved Abilify pill for treating schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. This pill has an embedded ingestible sensor which transmits data to a wearable patch. The patch transmits this information to a mobile application through which a doctor can monitor the patient’s adherence to therapy. 

Digitizing medical records

Electronic Medical Record (EMR) is the digital version of physical medical records. It plays a crucial role in optimising patient care by ensuring continuity and aiding information sharing across caregivers (hospital, diagnostic lab, pharmacy etc). It replicates existing processes digitally with different degrees of automation, reasonable process optimization and operational management information system (MIS), which otherwise is labour intensive and prone to human error. The next phase of EMR is B-EMR i.e. Beyond EMR - a transformational technology for enabling new ways of doing things, doing more with less, more proactive and productive. In the near future, both EMR and B-EMR will co-exist.

Virtual – The new real

Virtual reality is a mechanism to immerse into an intensely near-real-life experience. It creates a powerful illusion of being in a highly interactive and experiential environment when physically one is not. Although VR usage is at an infancy stage in India, it has huge potential. As technology advances, many variants of VR such as immersive reality, augmented reality, transparent reality, and mixed reality are emerging. Risk-free, customized virtual surgery modules can help doctors practice better. VR can also be used for training nurses and paramedics on realistic immersive 3D models on simulation-based scenarios. It is driven by reality, first-hand interpretation, boundary-less, activity-based and almost real-life learning.

The digital wave is revolutionizing patient care in many ways, touching all aspects of healthcare. From wearable ECG machines to robots that do complex surgeries, technology is making healthcare delivery more advanced, precise and accessible.   

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Dr Naresh Trehan

The author is a renowned cardiovascular and cardiothoracic surgeon

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