Over the past decade, the health care landscape has changed dramatically thanks to new technology. A few breakthroughs transformed how patients both receive care and stay in touch with medical professionals. We’ve taken a look at three of the biggest developments:
Telemedicine is when patients see a medical provider remotely by phone or through an online video service. Large parts of the country don’t have quality medical professionals nearby, especially rural areas. In the past, people in these areas either had to travel hours for care or skip treatment altogether.
With telemedicine, they can see doctors from any location, including at home. Employees can also consult with a nurse or doctor without leaving their office.
As online video services improve, telemedicine should become even more popular. In 2013, an IHS Technology Report found only 350,000 patients used telemedicine. In 2018, this is expected to be 7 million patients.
2. Digital Medical Records
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 34.8 percent of office-based physicians used electronic records in 2007. Most providers recorded patient history through paper files, which was ultimately a flawed system. Doctors would waste time tracking down files, patients couldn’t access their medical history without contacting their doctor’s office and it was difficult to transfer information between medical providers.
By 2015, the CDC found that the number of physicians used electronic records increased to 86.9 percent. If a patient wants to change doctors, their old provider can instantly pass on their files; they don’t need to send a box of files in the mail. Patients can also see the results of exams and tests by logging onto their patient portal and communicating with their doctor through email. This speeds everything up and facilitates the access to and transfer of information.
3. Wearable Technology and Sensors
Wearable medical devices are another big breakthrough. By putting on one of these devices, a person can track important medical information such as their heart rate, their glucose level for diabetes and the amount of exercise they get throughout the day. They don’t have to visit the doctor to get this information.
Wearable devices encourage healthy behavior. For example, if a person hasn’t gotten enough exercise for the day, they’ll get an alert to move more. Wearables also provide 24/7 monitoring for medical issues, such as when someone’s heart rate is at a dangerous level, and warn the person and their doctor if a problem is developing.
A decade ago, wearable devices were quite rare, but in 2015, 39.5 million Americans used these devices, according to eMarketer. This should double to 80 million people by 2018.
It’s an exciting time for health care as we unlock the potential of these new technologies. What will the health care landscape look like in another decade? We can only imagine.
David Rodeck is a professional freelance writer based out of Delaware. Before writing full-time, he worked as a health- and life-insurance agent. He specializes in making insurance, investing and financial planning understandable.