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  • Writer's pictureMed Insider

Technology and Medicine: A Force for Good or a Hindrance to Progress?

By George Anorue

Highlights:

  • Technology impacts medicine positively

  • Technology also impacts health negatively

  • Recognizing the detrimental effects of technology on our health could be sufficient to prevent them and give way for technology to continue improving our lives.

Introduction


We live in an exciting era of technological advancement. Our lives and interactions are forever altered by the rapid pace of technological change that occurs each day. Advances in technology have had a profound impact on the way we live, work, and travel. The healthcare business is likewise being transformed by technological advancements. As time passes on, we are confronted with new innovations in the way information is gathered, treatments are delivered and communication in general, which on the other hand, influence patient experience as well as costs and quality of care, as they become more and more commonplace.


There is a vast spectrum of technology in medicine that is currently being utilized for diagnosing, treating, or otherwise managing a patient’s health. Among these are potentially sophisticated surgical or medical techniques, cutting-edge medical software, computerized electronic records, and state-of-the-art medical equipment.


While technology offers numerous benefits, there are still a number of issues that need to be addressed. Although technology has the ability to promote patient-centered care, minimize medical mistakes, enhance well-being, and even extend life expectancy, it has also been criticized for a rise in impersonal treatment, adverse health impacts such as obesity, mental health problems, and sleeplessness, as well as an increase in healthcare expenditure. Patient will likely experience difficulties as a result of these and a general decline in quality of life. As a result, patients may become more savvy consumers for the sake of their health and general well-being as well as well as make better decisions if they are aware of the potential dangers.


In light of this, we shall thus examine how technology has aided and hindered the advancement of health, medical treatment, and the patient experience in the paragraphs that follow.


Technology: Support for Medicine


Here, we'll take a look at some of the many ways in which modern medicine has benefited from technological advancements, as well as evidence that these two fields have worked together to advance humanity.


Doctors have access to more information thanks to clinical wearables


Using wearable technology, medical personnel may monitor and analyze the health of the user without interfering with their daily activities. In this approach, clinicians are able to be informed and aware about a patient's health without requiring them to make significant lifestyle changes. Thanks to the widespread use of sensors and wearable gadgets, people with Alzheimer's disease are able to stay in their own homes for far longer. If a meal is missed or if a person fails to get out of bed on a certain day, these sensors send out alarms and messages. Patients with excessive blood pressure or diabetes are in the same boat as well since their blood pressure or sugar levels can be easily monitored. Hence, this offers everyone concerned a sense of security, but it also helps doctors make better medical judgments and recommendations since they have a better understanding of the patient's health.


Asthma, melancholy, and anxiety are just a few of the disorders for which wearables are being utilized in clinical settings to monitor. In fact, they're even being used to try to anticipate when somebody will have a stroke. To put it simply, technology gives doctors the ability to be alerted, which in turn gives them the ability to be prepared.


Improved patient care is a direct result of technology


Patient care has become significantly more dependable and safe over time thanks to technology and big data. Tablets and portable computers are now options for medical professionals to employ while documenting a patient's medical history and ensuring that the individual is receiving the appropriate care. Medical records are stored in electronic devices and databases, making it much easier for patients to access their own data. In addition, they are better equipped to comprehend their own medical treatment and care.


We're getting more proactive and energetic thanks to technology

T

here is no doubt that technology is encouraging us to be more proactive with devices like Pacer and other applications that monitor our steps and overall activity. In order to meet our daily goals, we may either walk, run or do other home exercises using these applications which on the other hand get us moving, since they track our activity levels, tally calories expended, watch our heart rate, and even monitor our sleep. Patients lead fuller lives as a result of this improvement in lifestyle generally.


Knowledge is power: patients now have that power thanks to technology


Let’s not also forget that patients are better informed and empowered thanks to technological advancements. With websites like Med Insider, people and patients now have the power of knowledge that was previously out of their hands. More and more individuals are turning to the internet to learn more about medical diseases and ailments they may be experiencing. People are spending more time researching symptoms, learning about remedies, and finding new drugs. As a result, patients are more informed and empowered to make decisions about their own health care, resulting in a greater sense of well-being for everyone.


Having access to knowledge isn't always a good thing, of course. Researching symptoms online might lead patients to falsely believe they have a specific medical condition. Many patients may fight tooth and nail against a doctor's advice because of faulty reasoning or information obtained from a dubious medical website.


Treatments, machines, and medications have all been enhanced thanks to technology


One clear example of how technological advancements have improved the healthcare industry is the ability to diagnose and treat patients more quickly. Many lives have been saved thanks to the advancements in medical technology, including new devices, drugs, and therapies. From MRI scanners to X-Ray devices, technology has improved the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of illnesses and ailments.


The emergence of automated and artificial intelligence technologies has made the diagnostic procedure a clear target. 'Computer-aided diagnosis' has been demonstrated in more than 100 studies to surpass 'expert' diagnostic abilities, which in turn may free up time for the crucial human contacts and handholding required to give diagnoses or therapy in some instances.


Haemophilia is a disorder that has achieved significant progress thanks to developments in medical technology. In recent years, gene therapy has been utilized to treat the genetic blood condition haemophilia. An injectable virus infected with the gene for the blood-clotting protein factor IX was administered to 10 men with haemophilia during a clinical experiment. According to a report by Nathwani et al (2014), nine out of ten patients had no more incidents of bleeding after 18 months. Eight of the 10 patients no longer required daily injections of factor IX, which improved their quality of life significantly.

Technology: a silent killer to medical progress


Even while technology has many advantages, I worry if being uninformed of its drawbacks may turn it into a silent killer for medical progress. In this era, can be seen as a cause of issues which they practically solutions for them as well.


Low empathy by doctors while employing technology


William Osler, a 19th-century physician often referred to as the "Father of Modern Medicine," is credited with the famous quote: "Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis. How would the situation change if the 'listener' is not the caregiver but rather technology? Even when the intention is to reduce administration in order to free up room for meaningful human connections, the enormous promises sometimes made on behalf of technology do not always translate to patient advantages.


According to a recent cross-sectional research by Young, Burge, Kumar, Wilson, & Ortiz (2018), primary care physicians spend less time with their patients face-to-face than they do working on their electronic health records. Findings like these would argue against the idea that technology might enhance an empathetic consultation by freeing up physician time. As a result, the promise of symptom data collecting by certain general practises in place of or before face-to-face consultations aims to enhance efficiency, however the results do not support that assertion.


Primary care doctors have expressed similar worries. In the UK, several studies have found that the quality of doctor–patient contact has declined since the introduction of computerised technology into the primary care consulting room. Technology can lead to a practitioner's concern with computational activities, delayed reactions to signals, sluggish delivery of empathetic words and delayed non-verbal indications during a consultation (such as withholding gaze from patients). Empathy may be decreasing because of increased demands on practitioners' time, which may make it difficult for them to interact with patients at the same time, and artificial intelligence systems may help alleviate the growing administrative burden that arguably detracts clinicians from empathic consultation. In addition, patients' communication and behaviour may begin to adapt to a session centred on computers.


Technology impacts mental health


Of course, not all advances in technology are for the better. Mental health issues have been linked to social media's meteoric rise in popularity, which has prompted many to speculate.

Recent research found that social media is connected to high levels of anxiety (including depression and FOMO), with Instagram being the worst social media network for mental health and wellness (Firestone, 2017). When young people see their classmates having a wonderful time while they, ostensibly, aren't, they have a 'compare and despair' response. It has been proved that social media may be as addictive as cigarettes and alcohol; individuals can't stay away. despite the unpleasant sentiments brought about by social media.


According to a study by Ra et al. (2018), people who engage in a lot of digital media use are more likely to suffer from ADHD symptoms. Adolescent hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) appears to be linked to the usage of digital media. Low academic performance, lack of attention, lack of creativity, delays in language development; poor sleep quality; social issues such as social incompatibility and anxiety; aggressive behaviors; addiction to these technologies; and a higher BMI are all possible consequences of excessive technology use by children. Children should be taught how to use these devices in a healthy way by monitoring their use and offering them with exciting alternatives, since it appears to negatively affect the overall health of children and teenagers of all ages (Rosen et al., 2014).


Technology and insomnia


Health and technology cannot be discussed without mentioning how technology affects our quality of sleep. In the end, sleep can have a significant influence on our entire health. Memory difficulties, poor focus, mood fluctuations, and elevated blood pressure can all result from a lack of sleep. It can also lead to weight gain and a compromised immune system.


Because they reduce melatonin production, electronic devices like tablets, computers, and cellphones can disrupt your sleep. The blue light generated by these devices lowers melatonin levels, making it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep for the duration of the night. Considering how many individuals check their electronic devices right before going to bed, this is a serious issue to have.


Physical health effects


Tablets and smartphones, as well as desktops, can keep people engaged for lengthy periods of time. This might cause strain on the eyes. Digital eyestrain can cause blurry vision and dry eyes. Pain in the head, neck, or shoulders can also result from eye strain. For digital viewing, the 20-20-20 rule can be applied. Taking a 20-second break after every 20 minutes of screen use is a good rule of thumb to follow.


Many people's usage of smartphones and laptops may also lead to bad posture. Musculoskeletal problems may develop as a result of this over time. Many technologies encourage users to adopt a "down and forward" posture, in which they bend forward and fix their gaze downward on the screen in front of them. The neck and spine may be subjected to undue stress as a result of this. According Gustafsson, Thomée, Grimby-Ekman, & Hagberg (2017), texting on a mobile phone is linked to neck and upper back pain in young adults. While the majority of participants experienced only short-term side effects, a small number of persons continued to have symptoms well into the future. Some research, on the other hand, questions these conclusions. Symptoms such as neck soreness were unaffected by texting position, according to a research published by Damasceno et al. (2018). In this study, it was shown that texting and "text neck" had no effect on the neck discomfort of young adults. However, there was no long-term follow-up in the trial. Age and physical exercise may also play a role in the development of neck discomfort. It may be possible to enhance core, neck, and back strength by correcting posture issues when using technology. As a result, your eyes may not feel as fatigued from gazing at a screen for long periods.


The Sedentary Nature of Technology


The vast majority of digital devices we use on a daily basis are passive. These technologies encourage a more sedentary lifestyle, which has been linked to obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and early mortality if used excessively. Taking a break from sedentary technology may encourage a more physically active lifestyle. Contrary to popular belief, the use of technology may have both positive and negative consequences on our health, regardless of whether or not we utilise it.


Conclusion


Depending on the situation, technology, like any other tool, may be both beneficial and harmful. The fact that it has an impact on patient treatment, general quality of life and health care is beyond dispute. This influence will only get greater with the passage of time and the advancement of technology. In the end, technology and medicine continue to be allies in the pursuit of progress. Our lack of knowledge in this area makes us appear like a good fit for this quotation “The more you look, the less you see” and that’s because we focus too much on the benefits of technology that we forget to see the negative effects. As a result, this essay aims to expose readers to both the good and bad consequences on health and medicine in general, in an effort to dispel ignorance.


References


Damasceno, G. M., Ferreira, A. S., Nogueira, L. A. C., Reis, F. J. J., Andrade, I. C. S., & Meziat-Filho, N. (2018). Text neck and neck pain in 18–21-year-old young adults. European Spine Journal, 27(6), 1249–1254. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00586-017-5444-5


Firestone, L. (2017). Which is Worst for Your Mental Health: Instagram, Facebook or YouTube? Retrieved from PsychAlive website: https://www.psychalive.org/worst-mental-health-instagram-facebook-youtube/


Gustafsson, E., Thomée, S., Grimby-Ekman, A., & Hagberg, M. (2017). Texting on mobile phones and musculoskeletal disorders in young adults: A five-year cohort study. Applied Ergonomics, 58, 208–214. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apergo.2016.06.012


Nathwani, A. C., Reiss, U. M., Tuddenham, E. G. D., Rosales, C., Chowdary, P., McIntosh, J., … High, K. A. (2014). Long-term safety and efficacy of factor IX gene therapy in hemophilia B. The New England Journal of Medicine, 371(21), 1994–2004. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa1407309


Ra, C. K., Cho, J., Stone, M. D., De La Cerda, J., Goldenson, N. I., Moroney, E., … Leventhal, A. M. (2018). Association of Digital Media Use With Subsequent Symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Adolescents. JAMA, 320(3), 255. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2018.8931


Rosen, L. D., Lim, A. F., Felt, J., Carrier, L. M., Cheever, N. A., Lara-Ruiz, J. M., … Rokkum, J. (2014). Media and technology use predicts ill-being among children, preteens and teenagers independent of the negative health impacts of exercise and eating habits. Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 364–375. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.01.036


Young, R. A., Burge, S. K., Kumar, K. A., Wilson, J. M., & Ortiz, D. F. (2018). A Time-Motion Study of Primary Care Physicians’ Work in the Electronic Health Record Era. Family Medicine, 50(2), 91–99. https://doi.org/10.22454/fammed.2018.184803

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