Advancements in technology have wrought tremendous change for a number of industries, often putting power firmly in the hands of end-users. This is particularly true in the healthcare and medical fields as new technological developments have created major benefits for both medical practitioners and their patients.
Graham Anderson, CEO and Principal Officer at Profmed, says some of the most recent innovations have played a major role in ensuring greater use of preventive treatments and earlier diagnosis of diseases. “Technology is playing a crucial role in delivering more effective and higher quality healthcare globally. This is even more crucial in emerging economies that may be constrained by a lack of infrastructure or more rural communities.”
Anderson highlights some of the advances that have positively impacted the South African and global healthcare industries:
The role of a mobile clinic has become essential in developing or rural economies, enabling doctors and specialists to directly access underserved areas by enabling healthcare practitioners to diagnose and treat patients on-site. Medical clinics are often equipped with mobile record-keeping technology as well as medical equipment, allowing for medical practitioners to carry out a wide range of important functions on the go.
“This has proven to be particularly valuable in a South African context, where access to healthcare facilities in rural areas can be limited. This means that patients no longer have to travel long distances, often at a great expense, in order to access effective medical care,” Anderson continues.
Apps and mobile technology developments
The development of applications that are accessible to users is also changing the healthcare landscape by allowing patients to easily monitor their own health, from fitness apps to apps that educate patients on illnesses, and even apps designed specifically to give an individual updates on when to take their medication.
Among the most popular and successful apps are those that help monitor and plan ones eating habits. “By monitoring their eating habits, users can begin to adjust their lifestyle and meal plans to suit their medical needs. This is very important for those who for medical reasons have been put on strict diets or nutritious eating plans.”
Data /Patient information management
In the healthcare sector, information management can be a long process, with large amounts of paperwork required for patient files. Companies like IntriHEALTH are leading the way in solving the problems associated with managing large volumes of important data, and provides doctors with instant access to full medical imaging (radiography scans), history of patients and secure storage of this information through both on and off- site archives.
3D printing has been gaining momentum in the medical fields in recent years, with a recent highlight taking place in China, where a 3D printed vertebra was implanted on a 12 year old. “3D printing has had major implications for surgeons, enabling them to better plan their surgeries. In South Africa, 3D printing has even been used to bio engineer bone structure to fix skull defects on a 6 year old child.”
Robotic technology is also changing the face of medicine, as the use of robotics means that procedures are often no longer as invasive as traditional surgery,” explains Anderson.
It is expected that the medical robotic market will grow vastly in the next few years, a welcome innovation in a constantly evolving environment. “The ability for medical robotic technology to be applied across the board in the provision of healthcare makes the field a major highlight in the future of healthcare.”