We live in an unprecedented era in terms of sudden technological advancement. The rate at which technology has changed in our lifetime is extreme compared to that experienced by previous generations, which has both good and bad effects. On the one hand, technological advancement in the medical industry improves the likelihood of identifying, preventing, and treating diseases such that survival rates for many diseases are going up. However, technology changes sometimes mean exposure to new risks that come with health effects. And oftentimes, because testing cannot necessarily predict every possible outcome of a new device or technology, the only way to find out about a health effect is to implement the technology. However, based on the direction of certain trends in technology and healthcare, there are a few predictions we can make about how our health will be affected:
- New technologies in hospitals can be great for doctor and nurse productivity, but they can sometimes come with unexpected consequences. While this is to be expected any time a new technology is implemented in a work environment, in the medical industry it can raise a little more concern considering the things at stake. For example, confusion over the proper use of a new technology could lead to a miscommunication, resulting in a patient getting the wrong prescription or the wrong directions for their prescription.
- Increasingly sophisticated technologies can cause a noticeable contrast between hospitals that cater to neighborhoods of different socioeconomic levels. Because the wealth of a hospital really does determine the degree to which they will be able to implement new technologies, it’s extremely common to experience a disparity in service based on what a patient is able to pay. This problem becomes more noticeable in situations where a brand new life-saving technology is very expensive.
- Technological changes are also having an impact on consumer health. This can be both a good and a bad thing. For example, perhaps due in part to the development of the electronic cigarette and to the ongoing success of anti-smoking campaigns, the likelihood of developing lung cancer in the US has been steadily decreasing in the last decade. And while the health impacts of e-cigarettes are not yet totally understood, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are much better for the body and the environment. Products like e cigs from NJOY don’t use tobacco, and the e-liquid that accompanies them is made of far less chemicals than those found in real cigarettes. However, on the negative side, as certain technologies become more commonplace, they make certain health risks more prevalent. For example, as smartphones and tablets have become more common, more people may be at risk of neck and back problems from long periods of poor posture. With desk jobs becoming the norm, there is also plenty of data showing that sitting down for extended periods of time can be bad for our health also.
- Despite efforts to limit exposure to harmful chemicals, like through the removal of asbestos from old buildings, the risk of exposure to harmful chemicals is ongoing and this is, in part, due to technological demand. For example, the constant generation of new technologies places a huge demand on the industry of trash disposal and as space limitations become an issue, exposure to runoff and chemicals from improperly disposed items can be a risk, especially in low-income areas.
- As the population ages, our healthcare demands are changing. While many countries in the world are experiencing rapid population growth, which puts a serious strain on resources, the United States has a relatively stable population, which places a different demand on a community. As the population of the Baby Boom generation enters into retirement age, the medical community will be preparing for a sudden increase in demand for care for the elderly. Hospitals and other service providers, therefore, are preparing to grow and expand in accordance with the specific medical needs of this demographic. This will have an effect on the way that hospital planners and architects design buildings and how elderly healthcare protocols will be organized.
- Some specialists predict that care will become more localized and more focused on outpatient care. A major precept of the medical community is to keep care as minimal and noninvasive as possible. This means that doctors prefer to focus on preventative measures rather than curative measures whenever possible. In keeping with this protocol, certain medical philosophies increasingly emphasize providing early care and outpatient care to improve patient experience.
When it comes to technological advancement in any industry, it’s often a mixed bag. But if you’re interested in the nature of medical change, keep an eye out for how these predictions will play into your own health and healthcare experience in the coming years.
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