As the digital revolution gains momentum, humans and machines must do more together. Healthcare is starting to embrace both as critical team members. Doctors and healthcare workers are using machines to be more efficient, provide better care and take on increasingly more complex tasks.
Advances in robotics enable machines to communicate with humans, and also work side-by-side with them. Technology is augmenting human work and improving the effectiveness of healthcare. It provides doctors new devices, and it enables new treatments and procedures. It’s also creating a data goldmine that can spark medical breakthroughs and improve individualised treatment plans. Technology can even help manage risk by monitoring and assessing risk related to a patient’s vitals and adherence to doctor’s orders.
Patients are becoming more empowered with better information and tools to manage their healthcare. Healthcare is also more accessible to patients, as digital diagnostics can serve those who can't get to a doctor's office. Consumers are increasingly engaged in their own healthcare, taking on tasks such as updating their electronic medical record and using digital productivity tools for self-guided decision making or appointment scheduling. Innovations that shift work from the provider to the patient, or from people to technology, can help to control the spiraling costs of healthcare.
In major cities, you can order a flu shot to be delivered right to your door. Phone apps are helping both doctors and patients calculate the risk of heart surgery. Citizens in the United Kingdom are using social media as a first step to anonymously interact with peers on personal mental health issues. At home, a software-based Alzheimer's diagnostic test can detect impairments on the hippocampus (the first area of the brain to be affected by the disease) by evaluating your eye movement.
Automated appointment scheduling is expected to explode at health systems within the next five years. You’ll be able to share your electronic medical record (EMR) with the specific caregivers you want without going through your doctor. Technology will make it easier for patients to develop their own caregiving team when, via social platforms, they connect with healthcare professionals or peers facing similar conditions.
Ingestible or implantable devices will collect newfound levels of data that can better inform a doctor’s care plan. Surgeons will use wearable devices to get real-time access to data from monitoring equipment so they can make more informed decisions about the patient during a procedure, without even turning their head.
Wearable technology can provide further value by displaying critical information in unobtrusive ways. To illustrate, last year Accenture and Philips demonstrated how a doctor wearing Google Glass in an operating room could use the display to monitor a patient’s vital signs while performing surgical procedures, all without turning away from the patient.
And surgeons at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital have used Google Glass assistance during the removal of abdominal tumors. Surgeons were able to look directly at their patients and keep their hands on critical tasks, all while maintaining a constant view of vital patient data as well.
In these cases, augmented devices have provided doctors with additional degrees of freedom and portability, and unprecedented contextual information. Taking this one step further, some hospitals are making plans to improve training by using cameras to stream and record live surgeries, as seen through the eyes—and smart glasses—of a surgeon.
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