TelemedicineTelemedicine is the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology. When the doctor and patient are in different physical locations, they can still have a consultation using technology such as video conferencing, or a doctor may send important content such as their test results via email. Telemedicine is also used to keep track of patients who have been discharged (sent home) from hospital. One such example of this is Project Gerhome in which houses were fitted with sensors to monitor the environment, there was even a video camera for nurses to check on. With any big changes in the sensors, such as temperature or no water consumption, a message is sent to doctors asking them to check on the patient.
Electronic Medical RecordsEMR is the storing of patient data in a database which can be accessed by medical staff who are treating them.
A patient's full medical history can be retrieved by a medical professional instantly, even if a patient is not conscious or able to respond. EMRs can be accessed via PCs, laptops or most commonly in recent years, via a tablet or mobile device.
Medical Expert SystemsSometimes known as Clinical Decision Support Systems, are as the name suggests, there to help medical professionals with their diagnosis decisions. Medical expert systems usually focus on one particular field of medicine, such as dentistry or neurology. They are often integrated into EMR systems (see above), in order to automatically provide suggestions on diagnosis or patient related matters.
As shown in the diagram above, a knowledge engineer collates data from experts in the field into the knowledge base so they can be searchable and used by a medical professional. The accuracy of code and algorithms used to pull data out for the end user need to be 100% accurate in order to avoid incorrect diagnosis. Furthermore, the user interface needs to be clear, easy to use, and have easy to understand menus and error messages in order for the user to get the best out of the system.
ProstheticsThe advancements in technology in the last few years have resulted in more complex robotic limbs being used to help those who are in need. Compared to traditional plastic static prosthetics, technological ones can allow the wearer to control movement, fine control, and even sensing pressure. Some researchers are even developing prosthetic devices that can be hooked up to working nerves/muscles to control the devices.
Robotic SurgeryRobotic surgery is not robots autonomously performing surgeries! The robotic devices require an operator to control them, as a robot's decision making capabilities are not advanced enough. Famous examples of these robotic tools are the Da Vinci Surgical system, and the Cyberknife radiotherapy machine. These tools allow more accuracy when treating patients, doing less damage which leads to faster recovery times.
Patient SimulatorsPatient simulators are used to help trainees in the health industry practice a range of techniques. Older training tools were very mechanical with limited functionality, but advancements have brought computerised systems that can more accurately replicate the humsn body. Examples of these include models of cardiac output, working respiratory systems, eyes that react to light, as well as circulatory (blood) systems. Some of the systems can even respond to different drug injections down the detail of the amount administered.
These realistic simulators can enhance medical training greatly, and it allows doctors to get more realistic hands on experience to better prepare them for the real thing. They can also be used as part of medical assessments for training doctors and nurses - E.g. checking the correct pressure is applied during CPR or if they adminstered the correct type and dosage of a drug. While these patient simulators can go some way to helping prepare doctors, they can never be entirely like a real life scenario.
Mobile PhonesMobile phones have become a way for people who live in rural areas away from hospitals to send and receive messages for medical advice at an affordable rate. The anonymity of this method has encouraged many to come forward to get help about their HIV/AIDS issues in Africa.
Online MedicalMedical advice online has emerged from websites such as WebMD allowing people to self diagnose and become less of a burden on the medical industry. Online doctor surgery chats have also sprung up over time and support group sites where people can collaborate and share their medical details and treatment successes have been developed. In some respects, they have been largely positive, but self-diagnosis often leads to misdiagnosis and hypochondria has also been increased.
Disease MappingWherever there are major outbreaks of diseases around the world, data on the affected areas and how quickly it is spreading is vital. IT can be used to map the outbreak as well as enable reporting of new cases over mobile and wireless Internet connections. Healthmap is similar to Google Maps and is used by many organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) to collate all the data about disease outbreaks around the globe and plot it on a map. The ability to generate awareness of these outbreaks can help contain them by allowing people to check locations before they visit.
Human Genome ProjectThe Human Genome Project (HGP) was one of the great feats of exploration in history - an inward voyage of discovery rather than an outward exploration of the planet or the cosmos; an international research effort to sequence and map all of the genes - together known as the genome - of members of our species, Homo sapiens. Completed in April 2003, the HGP gave us the ability, for the first time, to read nature's complete genetic blueprint for building a human being.
Drug Interaction ModelsUsing computer models of the human body to test new drugs is mucu safer than testing on people or animals. The models can predict how quickly the drugs will take effect and highlight any potential side effects. Computer models in future could be customised to fit individual patients with details of their medical history, their age and other data. This would allow doctors to offer the best possible treatments. Computer models are not 100% accurate but they can at least go some way to helping keep medical professionals informed without the need for real testing, which may have devastating effects.
Psychological ConsiderationsIn the modern day, it is almost impossible to escape technology. We are surrounded by screens, from mobile phones of those around us, to screens aiming 100s of adverts at us, to interactions in stores in place of clerks when we pay for things!
The Internet is fast, and cheap, and full of content that is there to keep everyone engaged. As such, there are a rising number of cases of technological addiction rising globally. In South Korea, there are examples of people who have spent all their time on gaming instead of eating and drinking and passed away as a result (BBC article)
Alongside addictions, there are the physical issues that come with the overuse of technology. Studies have been conducted linked to sleep disorders that found many teens actually sleep with their mobile phone in bed in case they receive messages and can respond right away. A lack of sleep has been linked to lower test scores and behavioural issues in school as a result of lower concentration levels.
Addiction can also have a physical effect in the case of people using their mobile devices while driving, or not looking when crossing the road. The workplace has also been affected, with lower efficiency and quality of working due to distractions such as social media.
Many companies and schools now ban personal technology to try and combat this, but in some cases, people have had to attend counselling to deal with their addiction!
Physical ConsiderationsOveruse of a computer system can result in many different forms of injury:
RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) - causes pain and weakness in hands, arms, shoulders and back. It caused by a user having poor posture when using the machine and performing the same task over and over. For example, typing or using a mouse, or prolonged staring at the screen. Carpel Tunnel Syndrome is a similar affliction causing pain or numbness in the wrist.
Eyestrain and headaches can occur with excessive staring a screen over long periods of time.
Video games and social media have both been linked with these kinds of injuries in recent years.
These health risks can be prevented by maintaining a good posture when using computers and making sure to take regular breaks, as well as ensuring lighting in the room where the machine is being used does not result in glare from the screen. Other solutions include purchasing ergonomic keyboards and mice with features such as wrist rests that can help reduce the risks of RSI.
AccessibilityWhen creating a computer system that is adapted for users with disabilities, it is called accessible.
Hardware and software can both be adapted in order to suit everybody. For example, visually impaired users can benefit from such features like screen maginification, increased pointer size, and high contrast screen settings. Text-to-speech can also be used as part of the operating system to read out inputs on screen when the user hovers the mouse over them.
Blind users can utilise a braille keyboard in order to type in text. Braille printers are also available to produce documents with raised braille writing.