HAP Blog

How New Technology Could Change Health Care

Tech moves faster than ever, but where are we headed?

February 15, 2024

Years ago, when televisions were large pieces of furniture and their screens bubbled out, I remember my grandfather telling me the TVs of the future would be flat and thin, like a painting or picture on the wall, and that they would be visually stunning.

Often, when I think about the future of technology, I remember my grandpa’s prediction, and I try to imagine what’s around the corner for our modern world. A recent article in Becker’s newsletter reminded me of my grandpa’s vision. The challenges of the past few years have propelled health care to “explore and adopt” technology to help solve difficult problems, and we can only imagine what is coming down the line.

Today’s health care leaders are hurdling barriers that keep getting higher and higher. Some of these obstacles impact our preparedness. Every day, we’re managing a complex chain of supply shortages, the rising cost of goods, persistent financial worries, and staffing challenges related to retention and burnout. The latter might be the biggest threat to the delivery of care process. 

Technology could help address some of these issues, or perhaps play a role in helping us solve them. It’s on all of us to look into the future and forecast what’s possible. Here are a few examples.

The Role of Tech

In an ideal world, advances in technology would also improve health care and put our clinical teams in a better position to succeed.

There are plenty of areas where we could see this in action. A poll conducted nearly 15 years ago found at least a third of nurses spent an hour or more per shift looking for medical devices and equipment. Those minutes add up quickly, up to 40 hours a month. A more recent survey shows very similar results, reporting that only 30 percent of a nurse’s time is spent with patients.

I expect we’ll see location device tags become a more prominent part of care, as we look to relieve our staff from the needle-in-the-haystack missions to find medical devices and other critical items. Cutting an hour out of a work shift looking for inventory means more time spent at the bedside.

The Internet of Medical Things

Staffing shortages make it harder for us to prepare for the top concerns within our hazard vulnerability analysis. Our ability to navigate mass casualty events, HAZMAT incidents, severe weather, or other threats is weaker if we do not have the staff in place to support the response. 

As alarming as all this might sound, there will be future tools we can employ that help us face these challenges with a higher degree of preparedness.

The Internet connects people-to-people and provides a great deal of information, but we only are just beginning to tap into its true potential.  In the coming years, we are going to hear more about the Internet of Things (IoT), or, in the medical world, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), which will harness the old-fashioned Internet. The IoMT consists of the growing portfolio of devices and systems that connect to one another, including sensors, smart devices, and other monitors we use in day-to-day care.

IoMT’s is divided into four layers:

  1. Environment-aware layer (blood pressure cuffs, security cameras, objects, assets)—collect and analyze data
  2. Gateway Layer—data collected in environment-aware systems gets transmitted; networking equipment and communication (Bluetooth, WiFi, 4G and 5G)
  3. Cloud Service—cloud storage and computing. Data is aggregated.
  4. Functional Layer—applications are deployed (intelligent diagnostics and AI, telemedicine, ID tracking, smart hospitals)

Implementing the IoMT with EMS and first responders might change the way we track patients during a mass casualty incident. Even small tasks like labeling patient belongings—eyeglasses, clothes, dentures, walkers—can be simplified and streamlined.

With all the staffing issues and uncertainty health care faces, incorporating newer technology into our processes is something we can’t ignore. We need to look beyond those old TV screens that bubbled out and toward the possibility of a more technological future. 

I look forward to seeing what comes next.

For additional information, don’t hesitate to contact me or HAP’s emergency management team

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