Technology is not new in the delivery of health care – heart monitors, CT scans, MRI imaging and most laboratory tests rely on technology. The emerging trends in technology, however, are beginning to focus on improving health care access, improving population based health, and improving medical education.

Improving access

Portability and internet connectivity now make it possible to deliver care from afar – whether it be a neurological consultation for a patient in the early stages of a stroke, or providing an acute medical visit afterhours over the computer. The addition of portable and readily available monitoring devises (blood pressure, pulse, blood sugars) can make these “virtual visits” more robust and convenient. Newer technology has now made ultrasound available literally at the bedside, improving both the timeliness of diagnosis while minimizing patient exposure to ionizing radiation. Secure texting and communication platforms also allow medical providers to communicate and exchange medical information in a more timely and secure method. As more portable monitoring and diagnostic devices emerge with connectivity to the internet, access to all levels of care promise to increase regardless of patient location.

Improving population health

The advent of electronic medical records and digital storage of medical information like x-rays and medical images has provide the wealth of medical information that can be studied to improve the health of individuals and populations and communities. “Big data” provides a source of medical data that has never existed in the past – data that is now available for sophisticated analytical evaluation. The addition of artificial intelligence or “AI” can help clinicians to improve accuracy of radiographic image interpretation, determine patterns of disease and propose possible interventions, and identify effective treatments for even the most rare disease types. Examples include the human genome project and worldwide databases that can help to identify disease states associated with genomic differences, and more rapid pharmaceutical clinical studies for diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Improving education

The advent of virtual reality and simulation have revolutionized medical education. Students can now learn anatomy and chemistry in “3D” with the ability to revisit structure, function, and nomenclature over and over again. Simulation provides students the opportunity to “practice” common and complex medical scenarios before entering clinical practice – improving both patient outcome and safety. New processes in assessment, including computerized longitudinal assessment promise to provide more timely and effective student feedback, and encourage life-long learning.

Technology will continue to evolve in medical training and health care delivery. These advancements promise to improve care, make care more accessible, more affordable, and support a continued culture of learning and improvement.