Healthcare has been forced to undergo a major transformation in the last few years. During the pandemic, patients couldn’t meet their doctors in person and had to rely on remote technology to get the help they needed. At the same time, poor working conditions, burnout, and a lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) caused a major shortage of nurses and other healthcare professionals.
To overcome these challenges, the healthcare industry has turned to new technology, like augmented reality (AR) and the Internet of Things (IoT), to host patient consultations and track patient health. Hospitals are also using AI-driven analytics to reduce costs, spot trends in public health, equip staff with proper PPE, and provide better service to all patients.
Before the pandemic, many patients would have been hesitant to hop on a call with their doctor instead of meeting in person. Now, telehealth has become the norm for many doctors, nurses, clinicians, and patients.
Increased use of telehealth isn’t just more convenient for patients. It frees up waiting rooms and makes for a more efficient and safe healthcare setting. For example, clinicians can now rely on teledermatology to touch base with patients who may need a quick refill or check-up. This frees up clinicians’ schedules and allows them to spend more time with patients without fear of falling behind during the day.
Services like teledermatology may also make for a more equitable healthcare industry. Dr. Jules Lipoff, a dermatologist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, explains that “Teledermatology can transcend barriers to care if you don’t have access to specialists or live in a rural area.”
Of course, there are limits to what telehealth can offer. In cases of emergency, an in-person visit is still preferable. In addition, telehealth isn’t a viable option for all patients. Older patients or patients who face barriers to using technology should still have the option to meet in-office and get access to the care they need.
An augmented version of reality is making waves in industries across the globe. AR is changing our everyday lives, too. We can use AR headsets and devices to consume media, interact with friends, and buy new products. This powerful new technology can also be used in healthcare to deliver better training and services.
AR works by overlaying the real world with digital information. The most well-known example of AR is currently the infamous Pokmon GO game. However, AR can also be used in clinical settings to better train healthcare professionals and give doctors additional insights while they work.
For example, when a surgeon is completing an operation, they can use AR to overlay medical imaging, like MRI and CT scans. By superimposing stereoscopic projections, surgeons can make more accurate preoperative plans and accurately locate things like tumors and organs. This may increase the success rate of surgeries and lead to quicker recovery times for patients.
Professors who teach prospective healthcare professionals can also lean on AR to show students the necessary practical information. Instead of relying solely on video or textbooks, professors can put the learner in the shoes of a medical professional and allow them to train using technology that replicates the real world. Seen in this light, training and education in healthcare may be significantly improved through the metaverse.
Analytics and AI
Data analytics is a hot topic in the business world. Businesses around the world are using AI to predict trends, improve their operational efficiency, and minimize their costs. The healthcare industry can leverage analytics and AI similarly to deliver a more efficient service with lower costs.
Doctors who use predictive analytics may also help prevent conditions from ever forming. Predictive analytics use AI to crunch the numbers and forecast diseases and the chance of readmission for different patients.
Healthcare providers and state departments use AI-led data analytics to improve public health and spot public health trends. For example, during the pandemic, decision-makers had access to key data that forecasted health trends and made it clear that lockdowns were the best route to preventing infection and saving lives.
Even as we exit the pandemic, patients can continue to reap the benefits of data analytics. For example, patients who use devices connected to the IoT can measure overall health and spot an issue like heart arrhythmia before it becomes an emergency. Patients can also track their mental well-being using the IoT, as mood-aware devices can spot spirals and help patients get access to the healthcare they need.
Technology and healthcare work synergistically to provide better patient care, reduce wait times, and increase access to clinical advice. AR can help surgeons plan operations more effectively and professors can use AR to teach using practical examples. Hospitals today can also benefit from AI-driven tech. Hospitals can use analytics and deep-learning programs to predict patient health and spot trends in public health. This can be taken to state health departments and used to promote healthier, happier communities.
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