Technology and the Future of Healthcare

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Fatima Farooq, a 4th year medical student from Pakistan. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


We live in an era of technology. No sphere of our lives remains untouched by technology. The way technology is progressing, soon it shall become central to the existence of human beings. As in the case of other sectors, technology-driven products have had a universal impact on human health and healthcare services. These include stethoscopes, eyeglasses, X-ray machines, antibiotics, vaccines, point-of-care diagnostics and imaging equipment, to name a few.


The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health technology as the application of organised knowledge and skills in the form of medicines, medical devices, vaccines, procedures and systems developed to solve a health problem and improve quality of life. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines health technology and innovations as the application of knowledge to solve practical clinical and health problems, including products, procedures and practice styles that alter the way healthcare is delivered.


Recent work by the WHO has described at least 12 functions that digital technology is providing in healthcare and is currently developing a set of recommendations for all countries on its use. In brief, these functions include:


• Providing better and more direct information to everyone about health and illness
• Providing direct support to health workers and supervisors regarding the diagnosis and treatment of patients
• Providing verifiable and searchable records about births, deaths, and health encounters
• Providing health managers at every level with operational and strategic information about drug availability, finances, and human resource management


Some of the benefits of technology in healthcare:


• One of the biggest benefits of technology in healthcare is electronic medical records which allow all patient histories, test results, diagnoses and relevant information to be stored centrally in an online location.
• Devices such as pacemakers, health trackers, and many others make it very easy for users to track their personal health.
• Telehealth and Telemedicine are the next evolution in the world of healthcare. Now patients can easily get in touch with their doctors from anywhere in the world.
• Technological innovations in healthcare have facilitated much smoother communication within healthcare organisations. Medical professionals can now use media such as video, online discussion platforms and real-time meeting capacities to communicate and advance the spread of knowledge in the field.


To conclude, National authorities should develop a policy framework that articulates needs, standards and projections of safe and cost-effective technologies in the context of local epidemiological data and the felt needs of communities. Efficient implementation of health technologies requires availability of an adequate number of skilled human resources for health and infrastructure, for maintenance and replacement or for upgradation of these technologies.


References
• Bhatia R. Emerging Health Technologies and How They Can Transform Healthcare Delivery. Journal of Health Management. 2021; 23(1): 63 – 73. Available from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0972063421995025#_backmatter_notes
• Mitchell M, Kan L. Digital Technology and the Future of Health Systems. Health Systems & Reform. 2019; 5(2): 113 – 120. Available from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23288604.2019.1583040

About the author

Ms. Fatima Farooq is a 4th year medical student from Pakistan.

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