The role of technology in health-care reform
While the debate continues over health care reform, the significant role that technology plays is making health care more efficient and affordable is clear.
Often, technological advances are significant and on a grand-scale, involving innovations that have taken years and thousands of dollars to develop. Robotic surgery and advanced diagnostic tools fall into this category. These technological advances have saved countless lives since they were first introduced.
In a recent New York Times health policy column, Ezekiel J. Emanuel notes that it doesn’t have to be multi-million dollar technological innovations that change the face of health care.
In his column, Emanuel cites a number of areas where Smartphones can enhance the quality and efficiency of health care. “Diabetics’ smartphone applications could transmit their glucose levels to doctors’ offices; wireless home monitoring systems could be installed for patients with congestive heart failure; high-tech caps for drug bottles could alert patients’ families if they forget to take their medications,” he says. “There will also be many innovations in electronic health records. These aren’t flashy robots, gleaming scanners or new pills, but there is already evidence that they will save money and improve care.”
Some of these ideas have already been put into practical use. In March, Walgreens started offering new features with its mobile health app: Medication reminders/alerts and prescription transfers, which rely on barcode scans. Pharmacy benefit managers are also integrating similar applications to ensure prescription efficacy.
One of the top benefits of technology’s impact on medicine is the ability to streamline doctor-patient communication. Wireless technologies and broadband networks are a critical part of this. Telemedicine’s most significant reach will be into communities that are underserved by existing medical services, making strong broadband networks in those areas even more important.