The medical industry is arguably one of the most exciting and anticipated places for innovation. Who doesn’t dream of a cure for genetic diseases or elimination of cancer? These are topics that hit home for everyone and, as such, healthcare innovations themselves can often be as sensitive as they are sensational.
For example, can you really be put at ease with a heartless machine pricking you with a needle to draw your blood? How safe are your medical records when they are stored indefinitely in a virtual database called “the cloud”? These are real questions that healthcare insiders and patients alike are facing today thanks to hurdling advancements in technology. But what do they mean for the future of careers?
We pulled together five of the more controversial innovations cropping up in the healthcare industry and asked Rasmussen College faculty members to weigh in on what these changes mean for the industry and the doctor-patient relationship.
No one is born with a fear of needles (though at times it may feel like it for many of us!). It is a learned anxiety that arises through the constant pricking and prodding of those painfully sharp objects to which we are subjected from the first moments of life. And it’s hard to ignore the countless stories out there of patients that have suffered horrific bruising and even nerve damage from a routine blood draw.
Using a robot, on the other hand, could automatically reduce the amount of trial-and-error that goes into finding a vein, says Nadia LaVieri, health sciences program coordinator at Rasmussen College’s Mokena (Ill.) campus.
Reducing human error is in fact the mission of Veebot, given that 20-25 percent of venipuncture procedures result in some type of mistake. Reducing that percentage as much as possible seems like a worthwhile goal, although initial Veebot tests show a level of accuracy similar to humans.
And if you’re starting to freak out a little about your next blood draw, rest assured, using Veebot doesn’t eliminate the human phlebotomist altogether. Instead, the human counterpart is there to operate the machine, comfort the patient, prepare the equipment and cleanse the area before and after the procedure.
There is also a continued need for trained phlebotomists to step in during emergency situations or cases where there are changes in anatomy, says Dr. Christian Wright, dean of the school of health sciences.
Potential job impact … Experts continue to see a need for the “human touch” in healthcare even with robots in the picture. This is all the more reason to curate well-trained phlebotomists who can simultaneously work with technology and provide impeccable patient care.
If the actions of venture capitalists are any indicator – remote patient monitoring is definitely here to stay. Investors are continually pouring new money into technologies that can provide remote doctor appointments or gather patient data without the constant presence of a clinician.
These types of technologies provide exciting opportunities for rural patients or those unable to travel to a medical facility, suggests Lavieri. They also allow professionals to get a more complete picture of a patient’s healthcare situation at home where many of the contributors to hospital re-visits occur, according to health sciences faculty Dr. Jeremy Barthels at the Lake Elmo (Minn.) campus.
Potential job impact … The biggest impact that Dr. Barthels predicts is the growing need for medical professionals that are well-trained in technology. With increased potential for treatment being pushed out from the clinics to the homes, there will also be greater demand for comprehensive patient advocates that assist patients with the entire medical process from appointment to bill. Medical assistants and registered nurses will be critical to filling this role says Dr. Jamie Kahon, health sciences faculty at Rasmussen College’s Wausau (Wis.) campus.
Many of the major inefficiencies in healthcare stem from the improper dosing and handling of medications by chronically ill patients. It costs the healthcare industry around $100 billion each year to keep up with the 75 percent of adults who fail to take their medicine correctly. This is a major pain point for healthcare professionals and one that many companies are working to solve.
The leading solution right now is “smart” pills or bottles from companies such as AdhereTech – both of which text the patient and the doctor with all pertinent information related to each pill taken. This is posing questions on the patient-side for the creepiness factor. Big brother aside, HIPPA’s guidelines protecting patient privacy lead to some serious considerations for the secure transfer of data but many feel its a worthwhile investment to fix such a gap in the industry.
Potential job impact … Potential healthcare professionals don’t need to worry about these innovations reducing healthcare jobs. On the contrary, they will hopefully help create more efficiency and allow providers to give better care to their patients. And despite the obvious creepy factor of ingesting something that then communicates with you and your doctor, Dr. Barthels sees this being extremely helpful for care of the elderly and chronically ill patients.
We rely on our smartphones for pretty much everything now so why not use that dependence to detect illnesses? One developer,
Lifelens, thought cell phones could be very useful for detecting malaria, particularly in countries where it’s a life-threatening issue like sub-Saharan Africa. The app uses an algorithm to count red blood cells taken through a magnified image to detect the presence of malaria. The application also allows healthcare professionals to send the results to a central storage hub to be analyzed for geographic trends and to quell potential outbreaks.
Potential job impact … Medical detection apps improve tremendously the ability of professionals to collect widespread data. They also allow for the treatment of patients on a global scale. Health information technology (HIT) workers will be imperative for proper documentation of the results and maintenance of data integrity according to Charline Bumgardner, HIT faculty member for Rasmussen Online.
Google’s revolutionary new wearable computer device – i.e., Google Glass – is making waves throughout all industries, including healthcare. Many are praising the potential of Glass to share expertise across vast distances for training and overall quality increases. Others are voicing more HIPPA concerns about the secure transfer of data.
Just like all of the other technologies discussed here, Google Glass blends together technology and human skill. Surgeons will likely be able to perform an operation while keeping an eye on their patient’s vital signs simultaneously. Medical assistants and nurses will have the potential to access any relevant patient information on their Glass screen without leaving the bedside.
Potential job impact … Most experts are thrilled about the vast potential for Glass in healthcare. Educating future medical professionals is one benefit seen by Lavieri and Lori Groinus, health sciences faculty at Rasmussen College’s St. Cloud (Minn.) campus. The possibilities seem endless when combining the shared strengths of artificial and human intelligence. Students entering any medical field should begin preparing now for an increase in the technological acumen required to run healthcare facilities of the future.
To sum it up
There has not been a more exciting time for healthcare than right now. Medical scientists are working tirelessly to create solutions to the problems that are impacting the quality of our lives and they are succeeding. These healthcare innovations allow industry professionals to work together with technology to improve patient care.
From pills that send texts to glasses that create holograms, these innovations can be intimidating from the patient side. That’s why it is up to clinicians to maintain the patient-provider relationship that has withstood the test of time. Don’t wait to learn more about all of the exciting careers in healthcare!