Clinics, hospitals and physicians with private practices are relying more and more on sophisticated technology for tracking medical records, providing diagnostic images and assisting with all types of patient procedures. Here are five tech tools and products that assist health care professionals on the job:
As recently as four years ago, the market for handheld health care computing was dominated by devices like the Intel Mobile Clinical Assistant that were custom designed for medical professionals. Apple's iPad and other tablet computers have changed the game and are replacing dedicated health care computers. Tablet and smartphone apps are extending the capabilities of health care providers, allowing them to view test results and images on demand. Specialized handheld devices are also replacing traditional tools, such as stethoscopes, which are being replaced by portable ultrasounds by many doctors.
A variety of imaging technologies are used to diagnose, monitor and treat medical conditions. Besides X-ray, some of the most common imaging technologies are ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), fluoroscopy and mammography. The latest imaging advances include the ability to send X-ray, CT and MRI scans, and other images to the cloud where they can be accessed by health providers in a variety of locations. Cloud-based imaging is described as bridging the gap between hospitals that have radiologists and those that don't, allowing patients to have imaging performed at one hospital, then analyzed by a radiologist at another hospital.
Recent breakthroughs in surgical technology allow robots to be used for many types of minimally invasive surgeries, including prostrate, bladder, kidney and gynecologic procedures. The da Vinci Surgical System uses a robot controlled by a doctor who is looking through a viewfinder at a magnified image. As the doctor moves surgical instruments in the air, robotic arms duplicate the doctor’s movements within the patient’s body. Doctors who are learning to use the da Vinci system can train with RoSS, the Robotic Surgical Simulator. The RoSS uses a mock-up of the da Vinci robot and virtual reality to replicate the operation of the da Vinci system.
Electronic Health Records (EHR)
Medical histories, lab test results, billing information and other health data is increasingly being stored in digital form. EHR systems allow doctors' offices to go paperless and larger health care institutions to share information across numerous organizations. Cutting edge EHR systems are web-based and use database servers. eClinicalWorks is one of the largest providers of EHR; its system includes a patient portal that allows patients to pay bills, view medical information, check lab test results and communicate directly with their doctor.
Many medical schools use hands-on simulation to provide realistic training in a wide range of health care areas, including anesthesia, labor and delivery, radiology, surgery, emergency medicine and intensive care. Manikins that simulate respiratory, cardiac and pulmonary functions are used for clinical training, allowing physicians to "practice on plastic" before working with patients. Simulators are being used for training in everything from annual doctor's visits to complex heart surgeries.
Do you use any of these tools on a daily basis?
This post is written by Erica Moss, who is the community manager for Georgetown University’s online MSN programs, offering one of the nation’s leading nurse midwife programs.
Photo credit: viagallery.com