The Digital Age: Technology in Medicine
R.G. Wiseman Pinto
M.D., D.N.B., M.N.A.M.S, M.I.A.C.
Professor and Head,
Department of Pathology,
Goa Medical College, Bambolim, Goa 403 402.
Dean, Faculty of Medicine,
Goa University, Bambolim, Goa.
Technology continues to drive advancements in the medical and allied fields so that there is progress in medical research, digital devices, robotic surgery, cancer nanotherapy and so many others. There is a significant impact of technology in our everyday lives. However, being surrounded by too much technology can also have a negative impact on us. These range from physical effects such as vision/hearing problems, neck/back strain and others, to psychological issues such as distractibility, expectation of instant gratification, isolation and at times even depression. Hence, it is a fine line between health and hazard, and is best when kept in balance, so that the benefits out weigh the risks.
With the advent of the technology revolution and discovery of the internet and cyberspace, the practice of medicine has undergone a sea of change in all spheres. It has been greatly modified, revolutionised and influenced by these technological advances. These have changed the aspects and mode of functioning and practices of all branches of medicine. Besides the doctors, paramedical staff, nursing staff, attendants, patients, their relatives and well-wishers and the public at large use the computers, smart phones and internet to assess medical information and gain knowledge. The present medical students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, as well as students of pharmacy, allied health sciences, nursing, homeopathy and ayurveda, are well versed in the use of technology.
Patients themselves can access medical information at the click of a button and can gain extensive information about their illnesses. They also come to know about the various modalities of treatment, prevention, better lifestyles and good dietary requirements. So, they can follow a holistic approach to various disorders. The doctors of course will guide, treat and advise about the various modalities of treatment.
Doctors themselves can also enhance their knowledge about recent advances in their field obtained from the internet. There are groups, cybersites, e-journals, e-lectures. These can be useful in diagnosis, medical and surgical treatment, other modes of treatment, as well as follow up and prognosis of diseases. The doctors and students are updated about recent advances in their fields through continuing medical education (CMEs), seminars, conferences and workshops.
Telemedicine is another useful application of technology and it has enabled images of electrocardiograms, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI),positron emission tomography (PET),pathology slides, doctor’s prescriptions and patient records to be digitalised and shared with other specialists and centres. This drastically improves the patient’s outcomes and treatment due to rapid, accurate reports and allow for second (medical) opinions. Radiologists use plenty of teleradiology and pathologists use telepathology. Many hospitals now have patient databases and medical records are digitalised and these electronic medical records have reduced medical errors and improved the quality of care.
There are many other applications and uses of technology in medicine. Online research papers and publications greatly facilitate a wider readership because of the internet, which is indeed a great asset to the medical world. Robotic and laparoscopic surgeries are also now being widely utilised all over the world.
As the field of medicine gets more and more digital and technologically savvy, it can only move in the right direction. These next generation advances in medicine will undoubtedly bring a ray of hope to millions all over the globe.