Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.
Technology and Healthcare Mix Well
From the beginning of medicine, surgical and biological discoveries have continued to push our limits and extend our lifespans. Despite financial, legislative, and ethical barriers, healthcare has changed so much over the past few decades. Technology, or devices and systems used in medicine to promote health, has significantly changed the healthcare environment. Technological advances have impacted healthcare largely in terms of:
Health and Direct Patient Care
Susan is a 28 year old accountant, working long hours during tax season. On one of her long work days, she unfortunately experiences sharp and stabbing right abdominal pain. She does not have a primary doctor and prefers not to pay out of pocket for hospital expenses, but she decides to go to an emergency center due to worsening pain.
Due to standardization of high-tech equipment, diagnostic machines have become more affordable, and her local emergency center has the latest equipment. She is immediately diagnosed with acute appendicitis, indicating that her appendix must be removed and that it is at risk for rupturing--a life-threatening emergency. Upon hearing this news, she agrees to be transported to the local hospital.
Upon her arrival, the care team is aware of her diagnosis and acute (urgent) condition. The diagnostic images revealing the appendicitis are immediately available to her new team at the hospital because her medical information was placed into her electronic medical record (EMR). This means that no matter where Susan is treated, all of her medical and health information is accessible to her providers. This is certainly a relief to Susan, as she remembers having to manage all of her records on pieces of paper as a young adult.
Susan is next taken into surgery to have her appendix removed. Due to many technological advances, her surgeon explains that she will not have to receive a large incision, or surgical cut, into her skin to have the appendix removed. Instead, surgical robotics will be utilized, and will only require a tiny cut through her belly button to remove the appendix. Susan happily agrees, as this procedure means she can spend fewer days in surgical recovery, ultimately reducing her hospital bill. She will also be able to return to her regularly scheduled activities much sooner, including all of her clients eagerly awaiting their tax returns.
Advances to Support Care Outside of the Hospital
After Susan leaves the hospital, she quickly resumes her normal life. Her schedule has been very hectic, but she has been in communication with her case manager via email regarding an important follow-up visit, just to make sure that she is doing well after returning home. Understanding that Susan does not have a primary doctor and that she lives a very busy life, her case manager connects her with a provider that participates in telehealth. Telehealth is of interest to Susan because she can speak with a provider and have her small incision site evaluated. She especially values this option because it means the visit can be conducted within the comfort and privacy of her own office, by connecting with the provider utilizing video chat.
Technology's Impact on Healthcare Cost
Innovative methods of care delivery, like telehealth, have promoted access to services for many people like Susan with busy lifestyles, but also for individuals who remain bed-bound, or face other barriers that prevent them from making it to recommended appointments. Other examples of emerging virtual care include pacemaker readings via telephone and even wound care through video conferencing. Through the use of wireless internet and mobile devices, clinicians are even able to collaborate on complex cases across vast distances, contributing to a widely expanding base of knowledge among providers in differing specialties.
In addition to promoting access to care and specialized knowledge, technology has produced significant savings for patients, providers, and others working at the systems level within healthcare. Individuals are required to travel less, are subjected to fewer duplicate diagnoses (because they are already on file), and spend remarkably fewer days in recovery, leading to significant cost savings in the acute care setting.
In conclusion, technological advances impacted the direct patient care that Susan received, whether in the surgical suite or within the outpatient ambulatory setting. In addition to better care, Susan was also afforded the opportunity to have better access to healthcare due to better technological infrastructure. Whether good or bad, all of these advances impacted the cost of care, which in turn affects individuals, providers, and large-scale insurance providers who support the healthcare system.
Technological advances have led to many large strides in healthcare, including improvements in general health, quality of care, and costs of receiving and providing services. More individuals have access to care and can speak with healthcare providers without ever leaving their homes. Innovative computerized data systems hold important health information and store it securely. As a result of these and many other advances, the cost of healthcare is more affordable for patients who need it the most.
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