Healthcare will always be a people-driven business, because there are simply some things a machine can’t do. Doctors and other medical professionals are able to listen to patients; they are able to comfort and console; and they can make creative leaps — after all, a machine is only as good as its programming.
But as technology gains more of a foothold in healthcare, the industry itself is shifting from a science to a practice. Here are three big ways technology is taking over healthcare.
One of the biggest ways technology is taking over healthcare is in the way patients are diagnosed. Ask a different doctor, get a different diagnosis is a trend that has gone on for far too long, and it could be dangerous.
In the United States, over 40,000 ICU patients die every year from misdiagnosis — that is roughly the same number of people who die from breast cancer.
Even worse, errors in diagnosis are rarely related to a true difference of opinion. Over 75 percent of misdiagnoses stem from refusing to adjust an initial diagnosis, even in the face of other evidence. These errors hurt patients, and they hurt the healthcare industry–the average malpractice claim is roughly $300,000.
Technology is providing a new opportunity for healthcare; by creating objective standards for diagnosis, with visual efforts and possibilities for collaboration, diagnoses can become more balanced and more accurate.
Some two-thirds of misdiagnosis cases are due to issues in the system itself. Poor processes, a lack of teamwork, and poor communication are to blame in 65 percent of cases. Much of what doctors do, like testing and checkups, are things that can be done just as effectively with sensors, a skilled technician, and a database that interprets all the readings.
Moreover, when developed and managed effectively, the healthcare system itself can interact and relate. This creates a feedback loop so that not only is the most complete information about an individual available and integrated but the data from that person’s experience gets fed back into the system to make more informed diagnoses and more effective treatment plans.
The interdisciplinary design, adoption, and application of this sort of IT-based healthcare is called health informatics. Most professionals will have a Masters in health informatics — not a medical discipline nor a technology degree, but something in the middle.
The big advantage here is that these professionals are not trained in the whole range of information technology or computer sciences, nor are they required to pass medical school. Instead, they are trained specifically in those technology solutions that have a role in healthcare and in those aspects of healthcare that can be objectified to the point that a machine can interpret the meaning of patient readings.
Doctors are expected to go through medical school, remember everything they have learned on their chosen specialities with utter accuracy, and be able to apply that knowledge to help people become better. At the same time, they have to spend time taking readings, interpreting lab results, and completing other repetitive, easily automated tasks. Technology is changing that.