Like every other industry today, healthcare is being profoundly impacted by advances in technology. Medical students perform CPR on mannequins that blink and perspire, and practice their surgical techniques using virtual reality. Several top medical centers are even providing remote consultation services through telemedicine programs.
If they are to successfully practice medicine in such a dynamic environment, physicians must adapt to these developments. Similarly, it is essential for students considering or currently pursuing medicine to be aware of these wide-sweeping changes in medical training and healthcare delivery.
Innovative Strategies for Medical Training
Medical training has changed significantly in recent years, largely due to novel technologies. Simulation centers with computerized mannequins serving as “patients” have become quite prevalent at medical institutions across the country. At Johns Hopkins Medicine, their Simulation Center is used to assist current and future healthcare professionals in “refining advanced techniques and learning valuable social interactive tools for delivering important news to patients.”
The NY Times discussed The New York Simulation Center for the Health Sciences (NYSIM) as a site where emergency personnel can train for a variety of disasters. Additionally, medical, nursing and dental students, residents, and other healthcare professionals use the center for comprehensive training in specific clinical areas. NYSIM offers an extensive array of partial task trainers that allow for the practice of procedures on the head, airway, neck, chest, abdomen, spine, pelvis, and extremities. Microphones and cameras record each of the simulations, which allows for more helpful and productive feedback and debriefings.
Advances in virtual reality are also creating unique training methods for medical students and residents. For example, Rush University Medical Center will start training its obstetrics and gynecology residents utilizing virtual reality technology. According to the NY Times, residents will use a joystick or surgical tools while they see a virtual patient on the screen.
Similar to medical training, healthcare delivery has undergone substantial changes in recent years. This is especially visible in the advent of telemedicine, which enables doctors to communicate with patients remotely. In fact, doctors can now connect with patients, and each other, through a variety of means: phone, email and webcam.
Even more importantly, telemedicine is enabling physicians to reach areas where medical care is not as readily accessible. For example the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is in the forefront of using telemedicine to screen for diabetic retinopathy in underserved areas in India through the use of sophisticated iphone apps. The American Telemedicine Association estimates that 15 million people used telehealth services in 2015. In fact, Forbes discusses a unique initiative that links children in rural areas to psychiatric and counseling services.
Although the benefits of telemedicine are widely apparent, there are certainly still concerns. According to the Wall Street Journal, many worry that this novel system may compromise high-quality care for convenience. It is critical that aspiring physicians are well aware of these potential drawbacks, so that they can ensure that high quality care is maintained.
Health Information Technology
Just as telemedicine is transforming healthcare, health IT, specifically electronic health records (EHRS), are as well. Again, it is absolutely critical that aspiring physicians are familiar with these developments, as they will define their future work environment. Federal subsidies were provided to encourage the adoption of these EHRs; according to the NY Times, between 2008 and 2014, the number of hospitals using EHRs increased from 9% to 75%. HealthIT.gov notes numerous benefits of EHRs, including improved patient care, improved care coordination and cost savings.
However, the implementation of these systems has proved challenging. Many believe that EHRs have negatively impacted the physician-patient relationship, and unfortunately have not reached their potential in reducing workload and improving efficiency. According to Advisory Board, a survey conducted by the American Medical Association and AmericanEHR Partners found that only 34% of physicians said they were satisfied or very satisfied with EHR systems. Nonetheless, if future physicians are able to effectively integrate these developments into their medical practice, health IT will hopefully begin to reach its full potential.
These represent only some of the many technological advances in the healthcare setting today. Novel medical devices, techniques, and treatments are being developed each day. For example, the formerly low-tech area of stroke rehabilitation has seen many recent developments. According to the Wall Street Journal, new methods to promote stroke recovery include a simulated canoeing device, robotic exoskeletons, and interestingly enough, videogame devices. Patient-generated data is yet another area to look out for, as there are a growing number of individuals utilizing mobile health apps and other tools to track their health from home.
For additional information about the dynamic world of medicine or guidance on applying to medical school, contact Collegiate Gateway. As always, we are happy to help!