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5 Technologies Changing Healthcare

5 Technologies Changing Healthcare | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Healthcare isn’t what it used to be, and that’s a good thing! It’s no coincidence that the healthcare revolution aligns with the Digital Era, and how we approach our well-being, including physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, is getting faster, better and more accessible thanks to technology. It might seem like the healthcare industry is behind others when it comes to tasks like digitizing documents for a paperless environment, but that’s not the case. With regulations like HIPPA ensuring security compliance, it just takes healthcare a little longer to get fully on board with special technology that’s much more comprehensive and advanced than what’s readily available to other industries.

We take a lot of technology for granted, but consider these five technologies that are changing healthcare, and it’s easy to see how far we’ve come:

1. Fitness trackers. Whether you couldn’t imagine life without your Fitbit, heart rate monitor in spin class or Apple’s health app, how we track, compete, encourage ourselves and promote our fitness has shifted drastically thanks to these devices. They’re not perfect, and in some cases fitness trackers have been linked to negative practices such as orthorexia, but for most devotees they’re fun and easy ways to help move more and encourage healthy eating. When you know exactly what you’ve consumed, how long you’ve worked out and to what degree, and your tracker is telling you to get up and move because you’ve been sitting too long, it’s like having a 24/7 personal trainer at a very small fraction of the cost.

2. DietSensor. It’s another app, but one with a new approach to a healthier lifestyle. This recent development, and others like it, can scan nutritional labels to instantly gauge how an item fits into your diet (keeping in mind that a diet is something we all have, for better or worse). Learning to read nutritional labels is a skill that’s gone by the wayside. However, whether you teach yourself to be a better label checker or prefer to rely on the quick scan of technology, it’s a critical part of choosing a healthier lifestyle. Reading nutritional labels isn’t a skill that’s taught at school, and it’s rarely taught at home—often because those who should be teaching it are clueless, too. Nutritional labels have become increasingly confusing in recent years with ingredients we can’t pronounce and additions to labels to include items like “sugar alcohols.” A great app can be personalized so you’re getting the information you both need and want. For example, maybe you’re embracing a carb-cycling lifestyle and need to know net carbs instead of just a breakdown of carbohydrate types.

3. Healthcare data storage solutions. Embracing a paperless environment isn’t just kind to the environment, though you may get extra brownie points for that. It’s also a means of minimizing human error and double work. With cloud storage available, patient files (and more) can be instantly uploaded, downloaded, shared and viewed with those granted access anywhere in the world. Even with the threat of security breaches, soft copies of files are generally more secure than hard copies. Data storage designed specifically for healthcare can also help sync a patients’ many healthcare providers including GPs, mental health experts, physical therapists, nutritionists and even personal trainers.

4. New glucose monitoring systems with no prick. There are a few on the market, but a popular option in Europe and Australia is the Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System. Instead of daily finger pricks previously required of those with diabetes, it’s a sensor that you wear for 14 days that tests blood sugar levels 14 times throughout the day completely discomfort-free. Overall, technology is revolutionizing medical tests and routine precautions making approaches easier, more flexible, and more comfortable than ever. Those with diabetes aren’t the only patients who need frequent blood tests, but they make up the majority of such patients.

5. Virtual reality. VR options were big on Santa’s wish lists during the past holiday season, but they’re more than just fun and games. Virtual reality can help medical students “experience” future situations in a much more realistic fashion, and VR can also help the elderly or those with agoraphobia and PTSD slowly re-immerse themselves into a space that’s safe and accessible while mimicking the real world. There are a variety of VR offerings available, and doing your due diligence to find the right match for you is critical to having a successful experience.

Another technological breakthrough that’s been around for a while is being able to connect with healthcare professionals virtually. There’s been a boom in the number of physicians, mental health experts, and other healthcare professionals “meeting” with patients via video conferencing. It’s a faster, easier, and sometimes more affordable way for patients to get the care they need. As an added bonus, patients who are immobile, in rural areas, or for other reasons that have trouble seeing a medical professional in person suddenly has instant access to the help they need.

Technology is far from perfect, and there’s no telling what kind of medical technology breakthroughs we’ll experience in the coming years. However, with every offering there’s a chance to learn, grow and make sure the next breakthrough is even better. Technology can only improve if tested, though. For those in a position to try out new technology solutions, do so, and share your experience. It just might help drive the next generation of medical technology.

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Beyond games, Oculus virtual reality headset finds medical uses

Beyond games, Oculus virtual reality headset finds medical uses | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

To help treat soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, Jennifer Patterson turned to a gadget typically associated with video games: the virtual reality headset from Oculus, a company Facebook Inc bought for $2 billion last year.


Patterson, an engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh, studied a software used on the prototype of the head-mounted display that creates virtual settings, such as a Middle Eastern-themed city or desert road, that soldiers would otherwise avoid, as a way to help them recover from their PTSD.


She hopes doctors and therapists around the country will better understand how the technology can be helpful to their own patients.


Patterson is one of a handful of researchers who have used the display for experimental treatments and studies that range from treating glaucoma patients to easing pain in burn victims.


While there are no estimates of the potential size of the market for virtual reality applications in the health care field, analysts say that success in this area would likely spur even broader adoption in a range of industries, such as education, fashion, media and telecommunications.


The potential size of those markets is quite large, possibly surpassing $5 billion over the next three years, according to some estimates, especially as the gadget's uses extend far beyond gaming.


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he views virtual reality as the next major computing platform, and he is working hard to ensure that it is. While Oculus headsets will not be available to consumers until 2016, the company has made prototypes of the system available to developers since 2013, with the expectation that an array of applications will be available to those buying headsets after the formal launch.


The company plans to hold a news event Thursday in San Francisco but has not specified what it will announce. It declined to comment for this story.


Virtual reality is not new to medicine or therapy, but its affordability is. Doctors and researchers often shell out $30,000 to more than $300,000 for medical headsets and simulators while the Oculus is available to developers for $350 to $400.


The more expensive medical virtual reality sets will still be needed for certain studies, doctors and researchers said, because of their accuracy in detecting sensitive movements and because patients with severe facial burns cannot use a head-mounted Oculus device.


But they still expect the Oculus Rift and other cheaper virtual reality headsets to quickly replace the expensive ones.


"As more and more companies get involved in this, we will keep seeing inexpensive and very accurate systems," said Felipe Medeiros, a professor at the University of California San Diego who used the Oculus device to evaluate patients with glaucoma, a disease of the eye's optic nerve.


FLOOD VIRTUAL MARKET


Other companies, including Sony Corp, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Microsoft Corp, Google Inc and HTC Corp have either already released virtual reality headsets or plan to do so in the next year.


Oculus, however, has already distributed more than 100,000 units of its developer version. This is more than has been available in the history of virtual reality, giving it early brand recognition among medical researchers, analysts said.


"Oculus has basically jumped out in front," said Hunter Hoffman, a virtual reality researcher at the University of Washington Seattle who used the Oculus Rift to ease severe pain in an 11-year-old burn victim.


Some headsets, such as Sony's Morpheus, are built exclusively for video games. Oculus, however, allows researchers and developers to create their own software, whether for specialized applications like health care or for video games.


In Medeiros's study, for example, he evaluated patients with glaucoma. He created a simulated environment that made patients feel as though they were moving through a tunnel and then studied their bodies' responses.


That helped researchers predict the likelihood of a fall for glaucoma patients, allowing doctors to teach them how to avoid it.


Medeiros and other researchers said future studies will compare the inexpensive headsets against one another. But because of Oculus's early availability, it has already become the most popular headset.


"Oculus has done a great job of keeping themselves front and center and making themselves the product that everyone has to be compared against," said Brian Blau, Gartner research director.

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