Friday, September 03, 2010

How Computers and Smartphones Were Integrated into the Practice of Medicine

This is a guest post by Louise Baker. If you'd like to submit a guest post, please contact me.

How Computers and Smartphones Were Integrated into the Practice of Medicine

When the information age really began to erupt in the consumer market in the 80's, the health and medicine fields were caught somewhat flat-footed, just as most other businesses. As the technology improved and the possibilities increased, it was difficult for hospitals and medical practitioners to take advantage of them.

This continued throughout the internet boom, but even though medicine and medical research has long been a forefront of cutting edge technology, the most advanced technology was remaining on college campuses or in the incubator start up labs far away from patients.

This has changed significantly. Possibly the bellwether of the vast change was the website WebMD, which allowed web surfers to browse actual medical information, and review symptoms and even possible diagnosis. This boom of information for patients became problematic for doctors, as some patients would try and self-diagnose with limited information, or even go so far as to consider the online resources as more valid than a live doctor. Hospitals and medical practitioners had to work to come up with technological methods that were better than what people could find in their own homes.

This has led to major innovations in efficiency across the medical field, beginning with the moment the patient checks into the doctor's office or hospital. Now, all records are kept electronically, and data from physician's assistants, nurses and doctors is entered directly into smartphones and into the underlying database.

Hospitals use the vast amounts of stored data to run diagnostics on their own performance, which means they can determine things like peak emergency department times and the success rates for patients of specific doctors. This creates a new transparency that reduces patient mortality and increases the healing success rate.

A major new innovation is that now patients who check in for surgery are placed electronically into the system, and their status is anonymously displayed on monitors so their family can keep up with them. As the patient is moved from pre-op into surgery, and then into post-op, the family can see exactly where the patient is in the process.

While a patient is in the care of a medical facility, there are requirements depending on the type of state of the patient's condition. For example, patients who have just undergone surgery will often require hourly monitoring by the nursing staff to check their vitals, such as blood pressure and heart rate. The old laminate information bracelets have been replaced with clean plastic printed with bar codes, so that each time the nurse stops in to check on the patient, the bar code is scanned, and the visit is recorded. This keeps the transparency completely open, as this data can be tracked if there is an issue.

The infusion of technology into the medical field is invigorating to see, and beyond being nifty technology, it saves lives.

Louise Baker blogs about getting an online degree at Zen College Life. Her most recent post looked at the best online schools.

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