The healthcare industry is slowly warming up to emerging technologies. Small and large healthcare providers alike are starting to realize that investing in tech-enabled solutions yield big results.
Virtual reality tools, for instance, allow physicians to minimize surgical errors, while medical devices powered by smart software can help them make highly-accurate diagnostics within minutes. And that’s just a fraction into how cutting-edge technologies can enrich the lives of both patients and providers.
Here are five health organizations across the country that have been using emerging technologies to their fullest:
1. Hoag Hospital in California is using virtual reality (VR)to drive patient engagement and improve surgical outcomes. Similar to pilots inside a flight simulator, Hoag’s senior surgeons “rehearse” for complex surgeries in a surgical theater system, with the help of VR goggles made by the company Oculus Rifts.
This virtual environment is made possible thanks to the Surgical Navigation Advanced Platform, which allows doctors to safely test different surgical approaches, identify obstacles ahead of time and rethink their surgery plans.
A neurosurgeon might discover, for instance, that the tumor he was planning to reach is being obstructed by an optic nerve. Sticking to his initial plan would have been at severe risk to the patient’s short and long term health. But thanks to the VR platform, the surgeon can figure out better ways to extract the tumor, without damaging the surrounding areas. What’s more, doctors can record and share their VR rehearsals with patients as a way to calm their nerves before surgery.
This technology comes with a hefty price tag. Hoag paid about $500,000 for their VR platform. But the investment has been paying big dividends. The hospital has seen higher surgery success rates than ever before and they’ve been retaining up to 100 neurosurgery patients a year.
2. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is one of the first health organizations embracing voice technology.
The Los Angeles-based hospital just launched a pilot program to test how patients interact with Aiva, an Alexa-powered platform. Cedars-Sinai equipped 100 patient rooms with Amazon Echos, so patients can feel more in control of their entertainment. Without stepping foot outside their beds, patients can now get weather updates, switch TV channels or play music. Having an Echo by their bedside makes them feel a little less lonely and distracts them from pain.
“Patients young and old are now used to voice-activated devices in their homes. Since it’s familiar to them, it helps enhance their hospital experience,” explained Peachy Hain, Cedars-Sinai’s executive director of Medical and Surgical Services, one of the initiators of the project.
The voice-platform benefits clinicians too by streamlining the hospital’s human resources. Patients can contact a medical staff member whenever they need assistance and their voice requests will be forwarded to the appropriate person. Nurses, for instance, would get mobile phone notifications for medication requests or other medical emergencies, while caregivers will be alerted if a patient needs to use the restroom. If a medical staffer takes too long to respond to a voice request, then Aiva will redirect it further up the chain of command.
This is not Cedar-Sinai’s first attempt to modernize the hospital experience. There are 250 tablets with the MyChart bedside app available for patients who want to access their medical record information such as lab results. This helps doctors and patients maintain a higher level of communication and understanding of treatment plans.
3. Ascension St. John Hospital in Detroit, MIhas been experimenting with CardioFlux, a biomagnetic imaging device made by Genetesis, that’s capable of detecting heart problems within minutes.
The device is powered by a complex software called software as a medical device (SaMD), which is designed to collect and analyze massive amounts of quality health data in a short amount of time. “SaMD leverages the power of machine learning to extract a plethora of features from collected data. This allows radiologists to discover anomalies missed by other diagnostics tools like an electrocardiogram,” says Orthogonal, a medical software company.
Recently approved by the FDA, CardioFlux has already been tested on over 100 of Ascension St. John patients who were scanned for coronary artery disease in less than two minutes. According to hospital executives, the clinical trial showed that CardioFlux “can positively impact the clinical workflow of patients presenting to the ED with chest pain or anginal equivalents, which represent nearly 10 million emergency room visits a year.” Ascension St. John is now planning to launch the largest multi-center study using this technology.
4. Northwell Health, New York State’s largest healthcare provider, has seen patient satisfaction levels skyrocket since introducing wearable biosensor technology to its emergency department.
Developed by Philips, the IntelliVue Guardian is a wireless device that continuously monitors heart rate, respiratory rate and other vital signs. The device then sends this data to a clinical decision support software, which alerts providers and caregivers of subtle signs of deterioration, so they can quickly intervene.
And patients seem to be fond of the IntelliVue Guardian too. A recent survey revealed that 95 percent of Northwell Healthpatients were comfortable wearing the sensor on their chest and 73 percent said they feel “better taken care of when wearing the sensor.”
Considering that the global market for wearable medical devices is expected to reach US $4.5 billion by 2020, using the IntelliVue Guardian is giving Northwell a head start on their competitors.
5. Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), the largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, is teaming up with MediBloc, a Seoul-based blockchain startup, to overhaul their electronic health record (EHR) systems.
More exactly, MGH aims to use blockchain technology to boost the security of their medical data. MediBloc will be helping MGH build a secure platform which will enable seamless health data sharing between patients, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders.
Traditionally, medical data is recorded across multiple EHR systems, which not only makes it an easy target for hackers, but it can also lead to duplicate medical records and misdiagnoses.
With blockchain, this information is managed within a decentralised network of computers that keep 100% accurate records and automatically detect conflicting information.For now, MGH is testing the platform using simulated data.
Paving the way for digital transformation in healthcare is not easy and it’s certainly not cheap, but the results achieved by these organizations prove that it’s well worth it.
And as developers come up with better, more user-friendly health tech solutions, the industry will start adopting them at a faster pace.
I’m a single mother of 2 living in Utah writing about startups, business, marketing, entrepreneurship, and health. I also write for Inc, Score, Manta, and Newsblaze