Healthcare Essay


Technological developments over the past 30 years: Impact on people’s health

Contents

Introduction. 2

Access to health information. 2

Relationships between patients and physicians. 5

Decision-making by medical professionals. 6

Conclusion. 7

References. 8

Introduction

Over the past 30 years, technological developments have brought numerous positive effects on people’s health. First, it makes it easy for people to access health information. Secondly, it leads to improvement of relationships between patients and physicians. Thirdly, if properly used, it enables medical professionals to make better decisions during their work. Improper use of technology may easily lead doctors and other medical practitioners to make serious errors in judgment and decision-making (Hauxa & Ammenwerth, 2002). In this way, technology may be seen to have been the cause of the negative health consequences.

It is imperative for research to focus on the extent to which advances in technology have brought about benefits to people’s health. This paper sets out to do precisely that; it highlights the various ways in which technological developments have influenced people in terms of the ability to deal with health challenges as well as the need to improve health outcomes. The paper examines three ways in which technology has influenced health. The three areas include access to health information, relationships between patients and physicians, and decision-making by medical professionals.

Access to health information

With the advent of information and communication technology, people can access health information through numerous ways. One of them is the use of web-based resources. The internet is an excellent platform through which anyone with a computer and an internet connection can get access to health information from different sources including health professionals, academic libraries, and government departments. Today, millions of Americans rely on the internet for health information. On the basis of this information, they are able to make crucial health information.

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However, it is imperative for people to understand that not all online sources of health information are credible and factual. Some of the health guidelines and tips may be misleading. People who rely on misleading health information may make the wrong decisions, and this may bring about serious negative consequences. To avoid this, one may seek clarification from a medical professional whenever doubts arise regarding the credibility of certain online information. Additionally, it is always important for the internet user to undertake a comparison of various online sources of information.

Today, the term “eHealth” is being used in reference to the importance of using information and communication technology (ICT)as a fundamental platform for health interventions. Through eHealth, people around the world are able to use of ICT to achieve the objectives of improved health decisions, enhancement in quality of health care, and adoption of healthy lifestyles. It also contributes to the reduction of health costs arising from improved efficiencies within the healthcare system. Through ICT, people are also empowered to make informed health decisions, thereby taking greater control over their own health.

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However, it is imperative to note that ICT creates opportunities for enhanced decision-making not just to patients but also medical professionals as well. Similarly, the influences the influence of ICT on health promotion is not limited to online resources. Technology encompasses many other state-of-the-art innovations that enable individuals to manage their health appropriately. In today’s world, numerous technological devices are available for use by patients, healthcare professionals, and family members in the process of achieving positive health goals.  Examples of these technological tools include educative videos portable medical equipment, implantable devices, and kit for testing diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and pregnancy.

One point that ought to be emphasized at this point is that the effectiveness of technology in health care depends a lot on whether it is used in the right way. As consumers take a more participatory role in the management of their health affairs, some problems may arise regarding the application of different technologies. The goal of optimal wellbeing may not be achieved if people lack adequate knowledge on how to use different health-related technologies at their disposal. For example, the goals of secondary prevention may not succeed if people lack the skills necessary for undertaking screening and risk assessments.

To understand the concept of secondary prevention, one must first understand its position in health promotion. Secondary prevention is one of the three levels of prevention in health promotion; the other two levels include primary prevention and tertiary prevention (Chau, 2001). Primary prevention encompasses the actions carried out prior to any evidence of disease. It entails activities such as health counseling, health education, and dissemination of information on diet, exercise, physical fitness, and immunizations. In secondary prevention, focus is on early detection through screening as well as risk assessments.

Tertiary prevention, on the other hand, emphasizes on early treatment and disease management. Medical practitioners also seek to restore and maintain health function in patients or persons with disability. In each of these three levels, the role of technology is critical in the achievement of positive health outcomes. Patients and doctors alike must not only have access to information and tools of technology but also use them in the right way (Dick, 1991). 

Relationships between patients and physicians

In today’s information, there are more opportunities for interaction physicians and patients (Eysenbach, 2001). This is because of technological developments. Humankind has better chances of achieving positive health outcomes than at any other time in history. This is because technology provides numerous opportunities not just for access to information but also relationships between physicians and patients. Interpersonal relationships and access to information constitute a cornerstone of success in healthcare.

Another reason why humanity has a unique chance to improve health outcomes is the fact that although ICT has revolutionized medicine, humans are not even close to the goal of ensuring that its full potential is realized. There are many instances where health information is mismanaged, thereby undermining relationship-centered care (Chau, 2002). There is a need for tools of technology to be used in such a way that relationships in care are promoted. At the same time, those who use these tools need to be able to acknowledge and manage deficiencies in terms of the way the available information is managed ad medical decisions made. To achieve this goal, ICT experts should work in collaboration with providers of relationship-centered care.

In many cases, failure of technology is attributed to physicians and patients who fail to live up to their respective responsibilities (Price, 2000). For example, some patients are unwilling to negotiate with physicians regarding their health problems. On the other hand, some physicians withhold professional information that is critical to the health-promotion efforts of the patient. In serious cases, both physicians and patients fail to realize that they are pursuing shared goals relating to healthcare.

From this perspective, it is true to say that technology can act as either a facilitator or a barrier in healthcare. As a facilitator, technology makes it possible for clinicians and patients to access health-related information and understand health issues. Moreover, technological innovations enable clinicians carry out their professional tasks relating to diagnosis, patient care, and treatment with ease. As a barrier, the sheer complexity and bulkiness of medical information available to physicians is mind-boggling. Apart from engaging in their medical practice, physicians must double as managers of this information. This is a very daunting task, one in which very few medical professionals can excel. Towards, this end, technology acts as a barrier to proper medical practice.

Decision-making by medical professionals

Technology is an excellent source of support for decision-making by medical professionals. Today, various technological innovations make it easy for diseases to be diagnosed. For example, today, it is easy for breast cancer to be diagnosed using special machines. These machines enable doctors not only to carry out diagnosis but also to make decisions regarding the most effective breast cancer treatments.

Technology has led to the achievement of many milestones in evidence-based practice in laboratory medicine. Over the past thirty years, this evidence-based culture has been of utmost importance in establishing the scientific foundation for modern medicine. However, the evidence gathered sometimes tends to be flawed and inaccurate. These inaccuracies are caused by, among other factors, mechanical errors in the equipment used and human error. Sometimes it may take long for the causes of some of the errors to be established and corrective measures undertaken. For example, it may take years for modifications and upgrades to be made on complex medical equipment to enhance their accuracy and effectiveness.

One of the assumptions made when diagnostic tests are being carried out is that the equipment used will provide answers to the questions being posed (Cutler & McClellan, 2001). There are many reasons why the physician may feel the need for a diagnostic test. It should be remembered that the answers provided by the diagnostic test also depend on the immediate clinical setting of the patient. In many cases, those who come up with various technological developments fail to put into consider the immediate environmental context of the patient. Ultimately, they may have a negative impact on health outcomes.

Over the past three decades, the issue of outcomes research has been a subject of a heated debate in the healthcare sector (Wu, 2010). A lot of focus is normally on the role of technology in deriving and making sense of various outcomes (Wu, 2010).  Different countries and health facilities have access to different types of medical equipment. This creates variations with regard to the promptness with which patients can expect to have treatment offered. Different health service providers face different technology-related challenges. For this reason, it is possible to have some areas where technology has improved health outcomes and others where it is associated with negative effects.

Conclusion

Over the past thirty years, technological developments have brought about many positive effects on people’s health. However, in some cases, these developments have resulted in negative health outcomes. The level of success in the use of technology in healthcare depends on many factors, including type of technology, the environment in which it is used, and the level of cooperation among physicians and patients.

This paper has discussed examples from three areas; namely access to health information, relationships between patients and physicians, and decision-making by medical professionals. Technology makes health information easily accessible to everyone, particularly via the internet. Moreover, it has led to the emergence of numerous opportunities for the establishment of relationships between patients and physicians. Lastly, technology acts as an excellent tool for supporting decision-making among physicians, thereby increasing chances of positive health outcomes. In conclusion, technological developments have had both positive and negative effects on people’s health. However, the positive effects of technology on people’s health by far outweigh the drawbacks.

References

Chau, P. (2001). Information Technology Acceptance by Individual Professionals: A Model Comparison Approach. Decision Sciences, Vol. 32, No. 4, pp. 699–719.

Chau, P. (2002). Investigating healthcare professionals’ decisions to accept telemedicine technology: an empirical test of competing theories. Information & Management, Vol. 39, No. 4, pp. 297–311.

Cutler, D. & McClellan, M. (2001). Is Technological Change In Medicine Worth It? Health Affairs, Vol. 20, No. 5, pp. 11-29.

Dick, R. (1991). The computer-based patient record: an essential technology for health care. Blackwell Publishing, Washington, D.C.

Eysenbach, G. (2001). What is e-health? Journal of Medical Internet Research, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 20-52.

Hauxa, R. & Ammenwerth, E. (2002). Health care in the information society: A prognosis for the year 2013.  International Journal of Medical Informatics, Vol. 66, No. 1, pp. 3-21.

Price, C. (2000). Evidence-based Laboratory Medicine: Supporting Decision-Making. Clinical Chemistry,  Vol. 46, No. 8, pp. 1041-1050.

Wu, S. (2010). Systematic Review: Impact of Health Information Technology on Quality, Efficiency, and Costs of Medical Care. Harvard University Press, Harvard.


 

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