The Hunt For Preemptive Technology Is On Health care’s best preventative tech may be right in front of us
Health care is something that simply can’t be ignored. It’s not only a fundamental aspect of our personal abilities to live a sound lifestyle, it’s a necessity to the economy. As industries continue to grow with the aid of technology, the world of health care isn’t shying away from innovations that could improve both aforementioned categories.
Technology is not only driving the way patients are treated, but it’s also fueling the potential of stopping the worst conditions dead in their tracks. Preemptive technologies are defining the way scientists and engineers think about the health problems of today, allowing them to explore options that previously existed only outside of the box that is traditional health care.
Medical technology is moving along just as quickly as the tech gadgets that come and go from our daily lives — as a matter of fact, they’re pioneers of the latter. In the early 1950s, paging services were developed as a communication tool for physicians, which then evolved into the mobile device that’s likely inhabiting your pocket at this very moment. Like the military — and sometimes in cooperation with the military — the medical industry works as a platform to beta test many of the early incarnations of products that will eventually seep into our daily lives. Yet, before being transformed into consumer-driven products, they’re used as tools to save lives.
Tech innovations don’t always make their way to buyers in a new package, as some are destined to stay in the hospital. The design of technologies’ capabilities may change, but the goal is to reinforce a patient’s opportunities to heal or help fend off an unfavorable diagnosis. Today, machines used for cancer detection, such as mammography screenings, are shaping a provider’s ability to tend to patients. This tech continues to move forward with the end goal of detecting cancerous cells and proactively slaying them at their genesis.
“Technology is evolving and there are tests being developed for the detection of biomarkers for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes, and genetic markers for breast and ovarian cancer,” said Maureen Hillary, chief nursing officer at Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital (HGB) of Charlotte, Mich.
HGB began offering 3-D mammography services in 2015, and have since been able to detect cancerous formations at an earlier stage. While the tech is absolutely an important aspect of their ability to treat women, it’s not always a flawless method for absolute prevention.
“I don’t know if we have the early-enough interventions to interrupt the progress of these diseases, except for surgical intervention in diseases like breast and ovarian cancer where we remove the breasts and ovaries,” Hillary expalined. “However, that isn’t 100 percent effective because there is always some breast tissue left behind. So, are we able to prevent these diseases with the preemptive technologies, or are we just warning people they are at greater risk?”
As scientists work toward the development of technologies that will make statements such as Hillary’s more concrete and confident, it’s clear the proper investments are being made. In May 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services’ annual budget proposed a grant of $5.3 billion to the National Cancer Institution for the development of innovative technologies and additional research. With a projected 24 million people living with cancer across the globe, a high allocation such as this is not only justifiable, it’s necessary.
As technology continues to evolve, hospitals and health care facilities of all types are in a scramble to keep the latest and greatest tools on deck for their patients. However, keeping up with this rapidly moving evolution comes at a cost. Aside from the purchase of large-scale equipment for detection, many facilities have been forced to transition other aspects of their operations over the past decade by implementing tech that would significantly alter productivity and efficiency.
A 2015 Boston University study analyzed the impact of patient costs as a result of the implementation of tools known as Health Information Technology (HIT). HIT technologies were originally incorporated as a system-wide database for desktop computers, but have since expanded to be more accessible via mobile devices and communicative with other facility equipment. An additional bonus believed by early adopters is the upfront investment would be a valuable investment, diminishing the costs associated with payroll, patient housing costs and more. However, when analyzing 2.5 million inpatient admissions across 3,900 hospitals between 1998-2005, HIT was associated with a 1.3 percent increase in billed charges, while there was no evidence of savings even five years after adoption.
While early adopters may not have received the biggest bang for their buck, the tools have still been an invaluable asset to health care providers and the way they communicate. Coming full-circle, our phones are now leading the charge for HIT. Physicians are using their mobile devices to access information about prescription medications, important medical text and to seamlessly communicate with others in their network.
In addition to this, mobile health care is taking the industry by storm with 52 percent of users estimated to store personal health information on their mobile devices. Insights into personal health trends are more readily available than ever, making a compelling case for mobile devices as the most valuable preemptive health care tool of all. In 2017, the mobile health industry is projected to be worth nearly $26 billion.
More than a decade has passed since early adopters of tools such as HIT saw no return on investment, but the accessibility to health care tools for personal use and physician-based use may be actively turning the tide for today’s patients.
“You can’t separate business and health care. We want to provide economically sound health care. When we’re in a more competitive marketplace, prices can decrease. If we utilize technologies and provide medical care more appropriately with improved oversight, health care costs may decrease as well,” explained Dr. Saralyn Mark, a world-renowned advocate for women’s health and former health advisor within the Department of Health and Human Services and NASA, during a 2015 interview with U.S. News.
While the idea of affordable health care seems simple, the marriage of business and health care can create slow-moving obstacles. While health care innovations are pushing for preventative and preemptive methods of treatment, making them readily available is a negative proponent of the bottom line.
“Treating disease tends to be more lucrative,” said Mark. “It can be challenging to promote prevention, especially since a lot of it comes down to human behavior. From the economic vantage point, how do we measure that? For example, how do we measure healthy eating habits, healthy physical activity and not smoking and doing activities which put your health at risk?”
“Prevention is harder to quantify. The cornerstone of health care is on prevention. It’s on counseling; it’s on preventive tasks to catch something early, perhaps before it evolves into a full-blown disease. It’s an opportunity to bring patients in to begin the discussion with their clinicians on how to have a healthy life,” added Mark.
While the path to health care access may seem clear, it’s not. Fortunately, as scientists work to present the next life-saving technology to the realm of deadly diseases, the tech and mobile industries are doing their part to create a better standard of living and more options for people to take proper care of themselves.