By Trisha Thadani, USA TODAY
As the world becomes more digitized, the health care industry is racing to keep up, sparking an explosion of new digital technology geared to improving patient care.
Most visible to patients is the move to electronic medical records, or EHRs, by doctors and hospitals in an effort to streamline record-keeping and meet federal guidelines. But that’s only one of dozens of new tech advances that are designed to make life better for the ill, elderly and disabled.
From practicing telemedicine to experimenting with 3-D printing, hundreds of entrepreneurs and innovators are working to reinvent the health care wheel. Attendance at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s annual health IT conference has nearly doubled in the last decade, says Carla Smith, the organization’s executive vice president. . She sees that as evidence that technologies are “emerging and maturing sufficiently to meet the needs for optimal, safe and cost-effective patient care.”
Some recent innovations:
• “Smart” helmet. Helmets that have technology embedded in them can send alerts when an athlete may have a concussion after a collision
• Asthma breath app. Asthmatic patients can blow into their iPhone and the data are automatically sent to the doctor.
• Ingestible sensors with accompanying patch. Edible sensors have no batteries or antennae and are powered by stomach fluids. The sensor transmits data to a patch on the body that also detects heart rate, activity and rest; that information is sent to the mobile, Bluetooth-enabled device.
• Mobile phone texting for pregnant women. Pregnant women in socioeconomically disadvantaged or rural communities can use this technology to connect with a doctor. It also can be used to remind patients of upcoming vaccines and lab tests.
Health care strategist Marc Olsen compares the magnitude of the current boom in health care technologies to the boom of the Internet in the early 2000s.
But with this boom comes many hurdles, he says. Health care has always been behind other industries by about 20 years, he says, and the field is incredibly complex.
Olsen predicts there will be a high failure rate among emerging companies. But that is not necessarily a bad thing, he says. Success will require more than just one great idea since there are so many different variations of health care and so many regulations to meet.
“Someone’s health care isn’t just a widget,” he says. “You can’t just create a single product that works for everyone.”
The industry is headed in a positive direction, he says, but there is still much more that needs to be done.
Read the rest of Trisha’s story and watch a video at http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/06/11/healthcare-technology/28557075/.