How Medical Technology Encourages Preventative Health

Recent advancements in digitally connected technology like wearable devices and healthcare apps are preventing major medical issues before they start. For example, IoT-connected insulin pumps can alert doctors to when patients need to come in for a checkup; telecounseling can help those at risk of suicide; or activity trackers can help those battling obesity and help at-risk patients prevent heart disease.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of the latest medical technology currently in use.

Data-Driven Interconnectedness

The way providers treat patients, as well as the way patients heal, is being rapidly changed by one major factor: data. Emerging medical technologies are making healthcare interoperability faster and more efficient than in years past. For example, rather than having to fax a healthcare referral to a recommended clinic, administrators can simply log into the same cloud-based database containing a patient’s medical history and personal information. Faster access to electronic health records (EHRs) eliminates system miscommunication and inaccurate data transfer.

Some of the more advanced IoT technologies — such as pre-surgical VR/AR, driverless cars, and 3D printers — are still being beta-tested or yet to be implemented on a large scale due to costs. However, costs should go down as production goes up.

The more practical side of telemedicine, such as appointment scheduling and remote wait time monitoring, is already being adopted on a wider scale. This is good news for the patient-as-consumer model of healthcare, which new model hospitals and clinics have adopted over the last decade.

Health & Wellness Apps

Due, in part, to the ever-rising cost of healthcare, focus for many consumer-patients seems to be shifting from a treatment-based approach to a more preventative philosophy. Perhaps this shift toward prevention is for the best, considering the state of chronic disease in this country. According to Arizona State University, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., killing 27.6 million people each year. And although it is only the seventh highest cause of death, diabetes tops heart disease at 29.1 million Americans dying from it annually. With obesity having the dubious honor of affecting almost 40 percent of Americans aged 20 or over, preventative health certainly seems worthy of investment — both time- and money-wise.

Because of all this preventable chronic disease and comorbidity, wearable trackers and exercise apps like Google Fit, Fitbit, and Apple Watches provide many tangible benefits. In addition to encouraging healthy behaviors like regular daily exercise, some gadgets can even provide reminders for medication intake, along with doctor’s instructions, diet and fitness records, and lifestyle analysis. More advanced apps and wearables can even monitor conditions like depression or provide support for recovering alcoholics.

Ideally, digital technology also improves patient engagement by encouraging self-monitoring, rather than relying on physician-dictated directives. Online medical professionals like tele-counselors can ease the burden of reaching out for help by making mental health professionals available via text or phone — as opposed to in person. For example, the Crisis Text Line helps those contemplating suicide by providing text-accessible counseling, free of charge.

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Could mobile health and digital technology change our understanding of medicine? Ideally, all systems of support will work together to provide a more comprehensive and convenient model of care that’s more omnipresent but still within our control — all while saving millions of dollars. However, cybersecurity and privacy remain concerns for many.

What do you think are some of the most successful approaches thus far? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.