​How Technological Advancements Reduce Healthcare Costs

Laura Bourdeanu  |

By Hannah Luu & Laura Bourdeanu

Technological advances have revolutionized many industries, including the health care industry. From high-end diagnostic imaging systems that let doctors catch deadly diseases like cancer in their early stages, to voice recognition systems in the operating room, which help doctors get a better view of parts of the body while operating, technology has made life easier for both doctors and patients. Surgical Information Systems that make sure that surgical equipment, medical professionals and other miscellaneous supplies are where they need to be at the right time wouldn’t be possible without technological advancements.

But why is there a need for this expensive technology? Why spend huge amounts of money on high-tech equipment, information systems, and other digital electronics?

The healthcare industry is about providing patients with the best possible care in the best way possible. Using technology increases the performance of the medical professionals and saves them time and effort which they can utilize to save patients and provide better care.

Using digital imaging devices– like new and improved models of MRI, CT Scan, PET and ultrasound machines which are equipped with better functions and interfaces– helps to automate common processes faster and more accurately than previous models. These Imaging devices are in demand among health care professionals, and their use is steadily increasing. Technological advances have enabled radiologic images to be transmitted rapidly all over the world where they can be viewed simultaneously. This has led to increased efficiency, clinical effectiveness of medical services, timely referral processes, and increased productivity, all of which lead to lower cost per patient.

Remote solutions (telehealth) can be used to employ the services of highly paid specialists only when needed. Doctors can work any shift from their own location and share expert advice by looking at medical test results of patients. This saves money and allows the treating physician to have instant access to a specialist any time.

The use of surgical robots is also likely, as it allows the doctors to perform a surgery remotely and in real-time via broadband links to the robots, possibly in areas where it is difficult for a team of medical professionals to reach. The first such operation occurred in 2001, when surgeons in New York performed the first transatlantic operation on a patient in France. Currently, a robotic surgeon called the da Vinci Surgical System is being used to perform surgeries which are usually controlled by a human surgeon nearby. It is only a matter of time before the da Vinci Surgical System is being operated remotely.

New radiologic machines eliminated the need to store and develop films which were used previously. This has led to the decrease in the high costs associated with buying films, developing them, storing them and making copies to send the results of patient’s scans to medical professionals for consultation by snail-mail.

Nowadays, patients who need expert advice on their condition can send the digital image of their scans to doctors by email or through smartphones, so that they can get a consultation without the tiresome and time-consuming processes of visiting them in person. A lot of time and paperwork which would otherwise increase the costs (due to the sheer number of patients and the time it took to get a consultation) can thus be reduced.

Patients can be more involved with their chronic health issues and treatments via various applications from their smartphones. They can discuss their diseases online and get help from experts through their hospital’s patient support network. Chronic diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart diseases are rising as average longevity is increasing, so people who get an early diagnosis can seek help to approach their treatment or prevention options earlier.

Patient engagement involves patients staying in touch with doctors after their initial diagnosis. Patients can track their own progress against the guidelines that the doctor provides to him/her. Patient engagement involves the use of technology such as the development of smartphone apps and portals to the hospitals’ patient support networks. The smartphone apps such as pedometers or health trackers give a constant reminder to patients to take their medication and maintain their schedules in a way that assists them in their disease prevention or treatment plan. Some technology can alert the patient when conditions change, and perhaps in the future, they will be able to predict adverse outcomes before they occur. The internet can be a useful resource for finding out more on the disease that ails patients; they can effectively self-manage their treatments with guidance and discussions from their medical professionals.

Digital therapeutics is a technological advancement that can revolutionize prevention and treatment of chronic diseases. They involve using sensors, behavioral science, big data analytics and mobile devices that can be used through apps and web browsers or integrated with medical devices. They can also be deployed in real-time to monitor any chronic diseases. Digital therapeutics involves smartphone apps that can track patients’ activities in real-time and help them cope with depression by alerting them to go out and meet people. Asthma inhalers that have air-quality sensors can tell how the environment affects the behavior of patients every time they use the inhaler, and pills that have sensors in them can inform doctors whether the patient has taken the pill correctly.

Digital therapeutics is important for elderly and younger patients alike as they may forget to take medication due to the disease that affects them or other circumstances. Younger patients may be busy in their hectic schedules in work or even school to pay attention to their dosage, so digital therapeutics can help them to keep track of their treatment. Apps like Samsung Smart Health can be developed by different hospitals that are trying to provide better patient care. They can be linked to hospital support systems that help doctors monitor the prognosis of their patients and stay in touch with them for providing further guidance.

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Technology certainly has given the health industry a huge boost in its pursuit of providing better care and in the prevention and treatment of chronic illnesses like cancer. Cancer is currently one of the most potent chronic illnesses and the most expensive to treat in the world. Using highly sophisticated software, OncoGambit informs the patients of treatment options for many different types of cancer that conform to national guidelines formulated by ASCO, ESMO, NCCN and ASTRO and are mutually agreed upon by more than 1100 cancer specialists. In addition, OncoGambit provides patients with education regarding their cancers and how the treatment is derived so that they have a better understanding about why they are receiving the recommended treatment. The founders of OncoGambit feel strongly that educated patients are better able to advocate for themselves, make informed decisions about their cancer treatment, ease the anxiety related to the uncertainty of treatment, and provide themselves with a sense of control in an out-of-control experience. This can translate into the patients being better prepared to care for themselves, manage their side effects, and comply with the treatment. This leads to decreased healthcare costs, simply because patients are educated about their treatment. The healthcare industry is about providing patients with the best possible care in the best way possible. Advances in technology can enable them to do just that, affordably!

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