One of the reasons why so many people are looking to move into health care at the moment is that it’s a growing sector. As our population ages and people live longer lives, there’s more and more demand for health care services – but with this comes new challenges. As service providers try to help more and more people and do so in an efficient, affordable way, they’re looking to technology and new working practices to extend the bounds of what is possible. It’s essential that individuals just starting out in health care careers keep abreast of these developments so that they can anticipate and manage the changes that will affect them as they progress.
Personal health monitors
The best way to manage illness is to stop it developing in the first place, and if it does, to empower patients to keep it under control as much as possible themselves. The development of biosensors that can monitor vital statistics such as blood pressure and heart rate means that patients can be alerted when they need to change their behavior or seek help, and when necessary information can be sent directly to doctors. Mobile phone apps, meanwhile, help patients to keep track of their medication and any necessary dietary control even when they suffer from memory problems, and other devices can help them work out how much exercise they’re getting.
Advanced gene sequencing
In the early days of gene sequencing, it was only possible to spot a handful of key genes linked to the increased risk of developing illnesses such as breast cancer and ischemic heart disease. Now, we can not only identify many more individual disease risks, but we’re also starting to understand what genes have to tell us about how individuals will respond to treatment. This can affect the choice of medication or other therapies provided, and it means that there are gradually fewer cases in which patients have to go through the stress of trying lots of different drugs until they find one that works for them. It’s also making it easier to protect patients from unpleasant or dangerous side effects.
Electronic health records
For as long as there have been health records, they’ve been kept on paper, and this has inevitably led to information getting lost or even confused between different people. It’s especially likely to happen when patients are moving back and forth between private service providers and the state system. Now that records are increasingly being moved into electronic format, there are different issues to address, especially around data security, but it should become much easier to keep everything up to date and access patient information quickly in the event of emergency. Of course, such a system can only be as good as the people supplying it with information. If you’d like to join them, you could take night classes to fit study around an existing job or get certified online – up-to-date courses in medical coding certification will give you all the skills you need.
Just as records can be managed electronically, so, in theory, can patients. Connecting with patients through the internet does limit what a doctor can do and isn’t practical in every situation, but it can have enormous benefits. It means that far fewer people are stuck in queues in waiting rooms, where they could potentially pick up infections from other patients. It means that people whose health would be made worse by traveling get to stay at home, while people who struggle to get time off work can pop into the office toilets for quick phone consultations. It’s especially helpful for the millions of Americans who live in rural areas but need occasional advice from specialists in particular areas of medicine. It makes doctors’ schedules simpler and could significantly reduce overheads.
3D printed parts
Fixing broken bodies used to be a matter of using standard, one-size-fits-all parts and hoping that they weren’t too uncomfortable. Now, 3D printing is enabling the creation of artificial hips, kneecaps and so forth that are tailored to fit individual patients for a much better experience. The detail that can be accomplished through this kind of printing also makes it possible to create textures ideally suited for biological materials to bond to, helping bodies to accept their new parts. It’s even possible to print some internal organs, such as bladders, for use in transplants, and scientists expect to be able to do this more and more over time.
It’s partly this ongoing innovation that makes medicine such an exciting sector to work in, and we can expect much more of it over the years to come.