Hi-tech health: medical advancements

Technological advancements are well documented in the medical sector, but what are some of the innovations being introduced to enhance the patient experience whilst in hospital? Vision explores

While many parents bemoan the hours their children spend transfixed in front of a smartphone, tablet or laptop, there are times when going into a technology-induced stupor is – literally – just what the doctor ordered.

Take Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, for example. It is using tech-inspired diversionary tactics on its young patients, courtesy of iPads loaded with games – Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Temple Run and more. It’s the perfect way to take a child’s attention away from potentially traumatic surgery – as good as distracting them with medication, says Dr Sam Seiden, a pediatric anesthesiologist at the hospital. And for those kids who are a little too young for such games, there’s always Pocket Pond – an app that simulates splashing around in water. A hit, apparently, with one-to-two-year-olds at the hospital.

Technology, then – for a long time a vital tool in medical advancement – is more and more becoming part of the patient experience in modern healthcare. The Dubai Health Authority (DHA), recently announced that it is to distribute Android tablets for hospital beds and waiting areas across healthcare facilities – part of a long-term strategy aimed at putting patient experience at the heart of technology use. “The deployment of Android tablets across DHA healthcare entities is the first step in our plan to build ‘smart hospitals’ that will be integrated with the latest IT technology to enhance customer experience,” explains Essa Al Haj Al Maidoor, Director-General of the DHA.

Deloitte’s 2012 report, mHealth in an mWorld, looked at how mobile technology is transforming healthcare and concluded that the impact is huge. The result, it said, is that “the healthcare industry is moving towards a delivery model that is patient-centered and value-based”. Apps are playing a big part in this revolution. They are being used to allow patients to customise their environment during MRI scans; to enable electronic checking-in of patients, eliminating forms; and to improve face-time contact with physicians through ‘telerounding’ – the use of wireless remote video-chat to assess hospitalised patients.

At Mayo Clinic, the US medical care and research centre that treats over a million people a year from nearly 150 countries, apps are being used to empower patients through better access to information. The Mayo Clinic Patient app allows secure access to medical records and direct messaging of doctors – using technology to revive the traditional one-to-one patient/doctor relationship for the demands of the 21st century. “The future is going to be amazing technology-wise,” says Mark Henderson, Division Chair, Information Technology, at the clinic. “Mayo Clinic is just touching the surface of what’s possible.”