New technologies in healthcare

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Bisma Naveed, a fourth 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.

Progress in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is shaping more and more the healthcare domain. ICTs adoption provides new opportunities, as well as discloses novel and unforeseen application scenarios. As a result, the overall health sector is potentially benefited, as the quality of medical services is expected to be enhanced and healthcare costs are reduced, in spite of the increasing demand.

[2019] Distribution of health workers by level of health expenditure and burden of diseases, for WHO regions. Size of dots is proportional to health expenditure. Image: WHO
Add to this the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases and growing population – these will generate a demand for 40 million additional health workers globally by 2030. This would require doubling our current global health workforce. This is a formidable target, unless steps to correct the situation are implemented with a sense of urgency. Without timely action, a shortfall of 18 million workers is predicted by 2030, along with a resultant annual cost to healthcare of $500 billion, due to health workforce inefficiency.
The advantages of health information technology (IT) include facilitating communication between health care providers; improving medication safety, tracking, and reporting; and promoting quality of care through optimized access to and adherence to guidelines. Health IT systems permit the collection of data for use for quality management, outcome reporting, and public health disease surveillance and reporting. However, improvement is needed with all health IT, especially regarding design, implementation, and integration between platforms within the work environment. Significant patient safety concerns already have been recognized; it is important to keep patient safety and quality as the primary focus. The potential to improve patient safety exists through the use of medication alerts, clinical flags and reminders, better tracking and reporting of consultations and diagnostic testing, clinical decision support, and the availability of complete patient data. Data gathered through the use of health IT can be used to evaluate the efficacy of therapeutic interventions and have been demonstrated to lead to improvements in the practice of medicine. Alerts can optimize adherence to guidelines and evidence-based care. Record uniformity can be designed to reduce practice variations, conduct systematic audits for quality assurance, and optimize evidenced-based care for common conditions.
Health IT is increasing patient engagement as consumers of healthcare. It allows patients access to their medical records, which helps them to feel more knowledgeable about their conditions and encourages them to actively participate in shared decision making.
The healthcare industry is fast-tracking use of e-health and e-learning techniques, AI, VR simulation and the internet of things to train, upskill and empower health workers. From personalized wearable devices for home-based care, to point of care, drone technology and telemedicine strategies for outreach remote healthcare, all are revolutionizing healthcare delivery. The scaling-up is rapid, based on big data and analytics, and these emerging technologies are also generating more demand for new skills, increasing the potential to employ more in digital healthcare delivery.


About the author

Ms. Bisma Naveed is a fourth year medical student from Pakistan.

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