3 Technological Advances Making Big Changes in Health Care

By Morgan Grant | 01/17/2018

As technology continues to advance, so does everything it touches – health care included. Each new year brings new innovations that make getting—and providing—health care easier than ever before. Thanks to technology, the way we see health care has changed. Here are three technological advances that have made the impossible possible in the health care industry.

Virtual Reality

There’s a reason medical school is expensive. Not only are you paying for a higher education, but not all materials needed for learning can be created by machines. Each cadaver used for classroom practice costs about $1300. But until now, this was the best way students could practice working on real humans. But now, virtual reality is changing that. Through the same VR technology used for immersive video games, students can perform complex surgeries, analyze errors from every angle, and practice until their performance is perfect. Not only does this drop expenses, but it allows students access to 3D learning whenever they need it, creating confident, well-trained doctors and surgeons for our future.

VR is also playing a new role in the lives of current doctors. A new software tool called EchoPixel takes the images captured in CT or MRI scans and renders them into 3D images that pop out of a specialized screen. Doctors can grab these renderings with a special pen and analyze organs, body parts, tissue, and bone from all different angles, dissecting and zooming in as needed. This enhances the surgical planning process and the way doctors communicate with their patients.

Drone Deliveries

A California-based company called Zipline is using drone technology to deliver life-saving drugs and equipment to patients in remote areas. According to Zipline, more than two billion people lack access to medical products because of remote location, gaps in infrastructure, and challenging terrain. Zipline enables health care workers to request medical products via text message. They send the package via one of their drone planes, which is catapulted through the air to the specified location. The package is released from the drone and takes just 7 minutes to drift onto the property of the hospital in need. Since their launch in 2016, thousands of units of blood have been delivered.

3D Printing

3D printing has made some major advancements over the past couple of years. Now, we can 3D print just about anything, including weapons, houses, and even food.

It’s no wonder 3D printing has made its way to health care. One of the biggest breakthroughs is the ability to print prosthetic limbs, tissue, and skin. With over 5 million upper-limb amputees worldwide, the need for affordable prosthetic limbs is great. New technological advances are starting to see that need filled. A company called Open Bionics is creating the newest version of the 3D-printed bionic arm. Where a regular, fully functioning prosthetic arm can cost up to $10,000, Open Bionics’ 3D-printed prosthetic version only costs $3,000 and takes just 42 hours to print.

According to the Open Bionic Sight, they create the limb by scanning the wearer, then printing the hand and socket. Sensors are attached to the wearer’s skin to pick up muscle movements and control the hand.

Prosthetics aren’t the only thing being replicated. 3D printing has also introduced the world to downloadable, customizable medicine. This can mean great things for patients and the health care industry. Because these pills are printed layer by layer, they have a porous texture that dissolves faster than traditional medication. And because they’re customizable, instead of ordering multiple medications to treat specific conditions, patients can have just one pill that’s designed with the exact dosage of every chemical compound they need. The FDA approved the first 3D-printed drug, Spritam, in 2016. It’s used to treat those who suffer from epileptic seizures. More recently, Aprecia Pharmaceuticals has signed an agreement to produce 3D-printed medications for rare conditions.

 

Technology is creating opportunity for change and improvement within the health care industry. We look forward to the future technology has in store for health care, and the solutions still to come.

If you’re an employer looking to make your own advances by providing occupational medicine services to your employees, talk to one of our work health experts.