Each year, technological breakthroughs and gadgets have flocked the market to cater the adoring public. Many would even change their gadgets regularly to fit the trend, and would await the next releases from the top brands in the business. Every new item is improved to its optimum performance, and it is also the top of its competition in its unique way. This trend enables the market to keep up with the demand and find new ways to cater to the public’s needs for the period. Although not many would give enough interest with them, some are awaiting the release of new medical technologies to improve treatment and research in the most dangerous diseases known at present. Technology in medicine enables people to be assured cure to whatever illness they may acquire, and its continuous improvement, it gives people the certainty that it may also be capable of finding a solution to the world’s most deadly diseases.
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Medical technology can be traced back sometime around the late 1800s when the first x-ray was created by Rontgen in 1895. According to Kramme and Kramme (2011), the x-ray allowed other technologies to be produced and used. However, these technologies were not immediately used such as the first electrocardiograph or the ECG and the first measurement of blood pressure by Riva-Rocci in 1896. Both of these were only applied medically in the 1900s, as the first electroencephalogram was introduced in 1924 by Berger, and the ECG was introduced in 1903. The 1900s also served as the milestone for most medical technologies and inventions such as the first artificial kidney in 1942, the heart-and-lung machine in 1953, the hip-joint prosthesis in 1960, the artificial cardiac valves a year late, and finally, the first patient monitoring device in 1965. Medical experts have already settled criterions for measurement and calibration of the ECG machine by the 1960s.
With technology no longer done through an analogue process, electronic computers enabled additional changes in medical technology. One example is the computer tomograph or the CT scan, capable of producing cross-sectional images of the body. The computer tomograph has been developed by Hounsfield and Cormack sometime in 1970. Introductions with diagnosis technology were also applied in this period, especially in the field of nuclear medicine. The positron emission tomography or the PET was designed as an imaging system, capable of showing both physiological and metabolic structures of the human body based on quantitative and location-depended data. As it was added to the CT technology, the result enabled medical experts and doctors to view things which were not included in the scans before as it also incorporated the use of molecular imaging. This development also enabled the reduction of radiation a body is exposed to when these scans are done. The integration of newer technologies in the medical imaging field allowed them to become a complete solution in optimizing medicine, in terms of identification of diseases, to one’s health condition. These breakthroughs and addition of technology in medicine is now interconnected into the various aspects of medicine, from diagnosis, therapy, monitoring, and prophylaxis of any type of condition a person contracts .
Technology in the medical field is regulated, to prevent any type of risk and to ensure the quality of these technologies is up to its optimum standards. According to Geertsma, de Brujin, Hilbers-Modderman, Hollestelle, Bakker, and Roszek (2007), regulations are placed to ensure quality is observed with the production and distribution of these medical technologies. In Europe, medical-related products are regulated through three different directives –the Medical Device Directive, the Active Implantable Medical Device Directive, and the In-vitro Diagnostic Devices Directive. Under these directives, procedures are dictated to ensure that these medical technologies comply with the standards set by each device or product. Once the medical device or product passed the standards under the directives, it will be given the certification mark. Under European Union Standards, the certification mark or the Conformite Europenne mark serves as an identification for EU Member States to be certain that they are getting quality medical technologies. The classification has also been created to identify the boundaries which will be applied in medical devices and technologies. Without a proper classification, it would be hard to identify the distinction with the various medical technologies and devices available in the market. European medical directives on medical devices and technologies state that these items must be designed and produced safety to protect patients and users. As of today, there are still risks involving the creation and use of various medical devices and technologies which is why these directives state that manufacturers must ensure that all risks are removed upon developing these technologies .
Having technology in the medical field has its benefits for both patient, doctor, and for anyone in the medical field. The most important effect of medical technologies to people is the assurance that they can get quality service, and a prolonged life should they contract any form of disease or illness. With the people’s stereotypes now gone and the efficiency of medical practitioners helping in the quality of service given by these hospitals, healthcare is now seen in a good light. This is likely visible in the next few years as more people over the age of 65 will continue to grow in population in the country thanks to medical technologies, according to Spekowius and Vendler (2006). The length of human lifespan is due to the decline of heart disease cases in people aged 60 and over. The advancement of medicine through the use of technology also enabled easier diagnosis and treatment, thereby reducing costs of treatment and prolonging life. This is also the same case when it comes to those who have one or more chronic diseases like for those who have diabetes. Diabetic patients can experience long life as long as they religiously take treatment and self-analysis each time. Advancements in medical technologies would also help patients avoid the high cost of expensive treatments once diagnosis spots the disease the patient has contracted early. Procedures reduce patient treatment and the administration can be done as an outpatient. Technology can also be used by doctors, to watch their patient’s condition while at home through the use of computers. It also reduces errors in terms of diagnosis as various technological procedures will not countercheck all the medical treatments done to the patient .
Shi and Singh (2011) also added that medical technology has enabled people to live lives despite their handicaps, which before would be impossible to do. People with disabilities can now express themselves and do normal activities as they can now use these technologies to overcome their disabilities. For those who have contracted diseases such as diabetes and renal complications, technology and new treatments can now give them the chance to do the things they normally can do. These advancements also allow those with heart disease, cancer, and AIDS to have longer lives and better health due to the technologies used to treat them. Pain and suffering due to treatment is also reduced with the use of medical technology. An example to this is cancer pain treatments, wherein opioids have been created to administer treatment without the use of needles to control the pain. Analgesia is also an example of a medical breakthrough that enables patients to decide how they should drink their medications, and how to control who administers it. Killer diseases such as AIDS and HIV are known seen as chronic diseases as treatment is now done in a painless manner. This is also the same for diabetes as there is now a creation of an oral form of insulin for the patient.
Another benefit is the time-efficiency technology provides both patient and doctor in appointments and record handling. Schuman and Bixler (2004) noted that traditionally, hospital staff had to use overfilled filing cabinets to put patient records, which sometimes lead to unorganized file organization and missing data. It also consumes time as the secretary has to sort out these unorganized folders if a patient has an appointment with the doctor. Of course, the benefits of applying technology in the problem enabled a digital database to be used to identify a patient’s data and history in almost any digital device. Technology also allows hospitals and insurance companies to check the patient’s records to check their recent medical history, saving enough time and resources if they did it traditionally. Not only would traditional searching from many out-dated and unorganized files time-consuming, it will also reduce the time for other activities and reduce the incoming that comes into the hospital or insurance company in updating its records. Technology also allows mobility of medical care as gadgets and devices are now made to transport-friendly so it can be moved to remote sites if needed. For countries with limited medical access, the use of the GPS system can help medical personnel to assist in remote areas, especially in case of an emergency. These benefits enable patients to prevent further complications if they decide to migrate to other kinds of treatment. Technology also allows doctors to interact with their patients through the use of telemedicine, without requiring physical contact.
Medical technology also enables hospitals to give quality service to its patients, subsequently allowing it to increase in size. According to Kovner, Knickman, Weisfeld, and Jonas (2011) the advances on medical technology enabled the elimination of the stereotype pertaining to hospitals. This is mostly seen with rich patients as they no longer see it as a place for the poor due to the quality of service it provides. The number of medical experts and nurses also increased to cater to the various services and technologies offered by hospitals, and to insure hospital sanitation. This then provides jobs for many graduates. There is also the belief by many, especially after the Second World War, that medicine can now conquer and cure all types of diseases through the technologies invented. This enabled the federal government to allot billions of dollars for the development of medical schools, research, and technologies. The US Congress also contributed to this positive perception of the medical field by adding funds to hospital construction and modernization programs, including technological advancement . Technology has also catered a way for treatment to be done in alternate locations and settings such as home treatment or outpatient treatment. Nowadays, homecare providers enable patients to gain access to formerly hospital-exclusive treatments due to financial status of most patients. MRI and Lithotripsy are just some of the procedures done nowadays in outpatient set-ups, enabling patients to get the results in record time. Some patients who are normally required to stay longer in hospitals are now given outpatient surgery to help them recover at home. To help doctors watch over these patients, monitoring devices are used to transmit data to various communication devices to alert the doctor attending to the patient. Technology also helps health care providers such as nurses, pharmacists, and other medical personnel to identify which medicine to give to the patient through the use of barcodes. Patient identification, equipment inventory, and documentation are also made efficient by technology to prevent errors.
Telemedicine is also a beneficial breakthrough for the medical field as this enables medical students to continue their studies by teleconferencing or for those medical administrators to understand the devices and technologies they wish to purchase. Videoconferencing allows administrators to ask questions to the manufacturers about the product they are selling, and test it without the need for their physical attendance. It also helps in deciding on general terms such as costs and delivery. This helps in reducing the cost of travel, airfare, and other expenses as most vendors of known medical technologies are based overseas. Technology enables both groups to seal deals and save money and time. For students, videoconferencing enables them to continue their studies despite their location. This is also useful for those based in rural areas, to help them keep up with the developments in medicine and new skills to apply in treating patients. With the breakthrough of outsourcing, telecommunication now enables foreigners to get language interpretation of their foreign physician’s instructions on treatment. Outsourcing even helps many medical institutions to manage their services and information.
Medical practice around the globe is also affected by technology, especially if the technology from the developed countries has reached the developing countries. Developed countries such as the United States now influences developing countries in terms of their medical practices and usage of specific technologies for a particular case. Developing countries are now given a controlled and open access to high-end medical technology without investing too much on exporting these items. Nevertheless, if technology is produced and developed slowly in the developed countries, it is a possibility that it would have consequences around the globe as many countries depend on developed countries for many of their medical practices.
With benefits on technology in the medical field, there is always the cost of maintaining them and using them. One of the dangers with technology in the medical field is the concept of privacy as stated by Schuman and Bixler (2004). Both authors noted that with the internet now connected to several medical archives and patient record, there is a risk for others to access these private records, which may cause cases like identity theft, and fraud. There have been records that security numbers, bank accounts, and even addresses were used by criminals thanks to the open medical records. For the public, they are unaware of these risks, as they believe that the hospital they have requested for their services will keep their information security. However, this was not the case before 1996 when the US Federal government passed the HIPAA bill. The said act is dedicated in updating the security standard for the medical field, especially in terms of medical records and information. It has already been a concern for the government that medical records should be given enough protection and security from unauthorized viewers. This may be used against the patient especially in their employment, and in law-enforcement. It has been noted that some records should be kept hidden or private, especially for those bodies that are used for medical research. However, the researchers argue about this as they cannot exactly conduct research without medical records. By the time the HIPAA was placed, it has allowed privacy to reign in the medical records of all medical institutions .
Technology also comes with a cost especially in the medical field, wherein developments in the field of research, treatment development, and prognosis constantly changes. Beever and Karbe (2003) noted that health care costs have increased more than the GNP of the country. In the United States alone, the health care expenses increased up to 4% higher than its yearly GNP rate. Health care costs have also reached up to $1. 5 trillion and is expected to increase each year due to the advancement of medical technologies. This is also the same change when it comes to non-pharmaceutical medical technologies with companies spending $100 billion each year to update them. Having these costs can be very detrimental for the US economy and society, the society entirely as their taxes usually shoulder development of these new medical technologies. These costs have also been considered by many and placed it under investigation, in hopes of identifying the factors that influence these costs to increase. Despite the many concerns over the costs, many accept that the costs are the result of the improvement of many medical technologies available in the market. Many of these technologies are not concentrated on safety, and its capacity to aid in curing diseases and illnesses. Nevertheless, there are still concerns as to how money can be given more value and be spent, without sacrificing the quality of these inventions .
Technology is also seen as a negative addition to medicine, especially by the conservatives as technology in medicine now attempts to recreate God’s given gifts artificially. Many have argued that this is unethical to practice, and it disrespects the teachings of the Church despite the good intentions of these technologies. One of the biggest debates at present pertaining to technology in the medical field is the practice of in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination to enable barren women to give birth to children despite their incapacity to do so. Fertilized embryos are also an issue for many conservatives as to what to do with the rest of these samples. Genetics is another questionable topic for most conservatives as they see this as a way for people to try recreating God’s capacity to create. Even life support technology is debated upon by conservatives and other experts as they see this as a deprivation of the patient of freedom from his suffering, especially for those under vegetative status .
One can only guess as to what the medical field would be like with technology in the next few years or in the incoming future. With technology constantly changing, it is possible that medical technology will be able to break the barriers of present medical technologies in identifying the creation of deadly diseases and find a treatment for these diseases even upon its detection. It is also possible that medical technology will become more compact for many to gain access to medical services no matter where they are in the globe as compared to the bulky devices used today. Despite the costs entailing these developments, it is important that these technologies help in prolonging life and saving them. The future for these developments is optimistic as people now understand the importance of good health in the constantly changing world.
Beever, C., & Karbe, M. (2003). The Cost of Medical Technologies. Boston: Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.
Gedeon, A. (2006). Science and technology in medicine: an illustrated account based on ninety-nine landmark publications from five centuries. New York: Springer.
Geertsma, R., de Bruijn, A., Hilbers-Modderman, E., Hollestelle, M., Bakker, G., & Roszek, B. (2007). New and Emerging Medical Technologies. Bilthoven: National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.
Kovner, A., Knickman, J., Weisfeld, V., & Jonas, S. (2011). Jonas and Kovner’s health care delivery in the United States. New York: Springer Publishing Company.
Kramme, R., & Kramme, H. (2011). Technology in Medicine: Its Role and Significance in Terms of Health Policy. In R. Kramme, K.-P. Hoffman, & R. S. Pozos, Springer Handbook of Medical Technology (pp. 3-72). New York: Springer Publishing Company.
Schuman, N., & Bixler, C. (2004). Privacy and Technology in the Medical Field. In A. Bliss, Technology and Privacy in the New Millennium (pp. 145-157). Boulder: Ethica Publishing.
Shi, L., & Singh, D. (2011). Delivering Health Care in America. Burlington: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Spekowius, G., & Vendler, T. (2006). Advances in healthcare technology: shaping the future of medical care. New York: Springer Publishing Company.