The Top 3 Healthcare Advancements of the Year

November 4, 2016

The Top 3 Healthcare Advancements of the Year AIDSVaccine / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND

Key advancements in healthcare might not always be obvious, but right now, they’re set to completely transform the industry within a few years.

All three of these improvements in medical technology and practices are transitioning from the early stages of testing and coordination into the later stages when they’ll transform healthcare.

If you have even a passing interest in the impact of technology in healthcare, these are the three trends you absolutely must be following.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Virtual and Augmented Reality boellstiftung / Flickr / CC BY-SA

No doubt you’ve heard about new VR technologies like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Gear VR, and others. They’re just hitting the market in big numbers and are already making a big splash as the future of entertainment. But what many of these stories miss is the enormous impact these devices will have on healthcare technology.

But how exactly? The first major area is in the world of education. As a recent article in Forbes pointed out, it’s very difficult to get students and medical professionals alike to effectively practice rarely used but vital techniques. For both hospitals and medical schools, the cost of building effective training regimes for procedures which may only need to be performed once a year is an enormous obstacle.

That’s one area where VR training comes into play. Instead of using costly mannequins to conduct this training, VR simulations allow for medical professionals to practice what to do in crisis situations at an incredibly low cost, once the initial investment has been made in purchasing the equipment and creating the training program.

In this sense, the advancements made here are set to have a significant impact on both medical students and healthcare professionals with decades of experience.

Indeed, the fundamental shift here is set to be a shift from written exams and videos to using more real-world simulations, which simulate a situation medical professionals actually encounter. The results should, in the coming years, lead to better outcomes across the board, making this one of the most exciting advancements in healthcare to come in decades.

Increasingly Connected and Personalized Care

Increasingly Connected and Personalized Care Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND

We’ve known for a long time that healthcare just isn’t a one-size-fits-all world. Yet despite promises that technology will facilitate the sharing of detailed personal medical records with ease, those advances have come slowly. But while government-run programs are making slow progress, tech firms are pushing to connect doctors and patients in unique ways.

That begins with wearables. Fitness trackers and smartwatches are beginning to give doctors instant access to vital health information. In addition, smartphone applications are allowing patients to input specific health information and share it with a few taps. All of this makes it easier than ever for doctors to coordinate care and understand the specific needs of a patient.

Then there are the ways in which this new flood of information is being used on the macro level. Big data analysis companies are developing ways to analyze and draw new conclusions like never before.

Taken together, all of these advancements translate into care that is connected and personal based on a patient’s unique information, as well as conclusions drawn from millions of data points. That is, assuming the producers of these devices can get their acts together to overcome controversies in terms of data security and usage.

More Coordination Against Superbugs

More Coordination Against Superbugs

One of the greatest fears of healthcare professionals around the world is the evolution of drug-resistant superbugs in response to the overuse of antibiotics and antibacterial soap. Luckily, governments and drug firms are working hard to implement new technologies and regulations to prevent a nightmare scenario from emerging.

The results of these efforts are already beginning to show. A recent study by Johns Hopkins University found that a coordinated response could reduce the impact of an outbreak of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) by 75%.

Reductions in the use of antibiotics are also having a major impact. It’s taken decades for the world to accept the dangers inherent in the overuse of antibiotics but measures are finally being taken.

These advancements in healthcare may be less exciting than the previous two, but medical professionals know they’re no less important. If we’re going to continue to rely on life-saving antibiotics, progress here is absolutely essential.

What Other Advances in Medical Technology Are Out There?

Interested in hearing about less plausible medical advancements? We can always dream: check out our post on Five Absurd “Healthcare Advancements” North Korea Claims to Have Made.