Healthy Living

Is Technology Improving Or Taking Over Modern Medicine?

The only worthwhile aim of developing medical technologies is simple — save human lives.

Centuries of technological developments have saved countless lives throughout the world and improved the quality of life for billions of people. Life-saving technologies have greatly improved since the advent of digital technologies, which allow 24/7 monitoring and healthcare delivery that was unimaginable as late as the 20th century.

The smartphone is probably the single most effective medical tool in existence today. And now it’s being assisted by a variety of consumer gadgets not specifically developed to save lives. Think of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant and the Google Assistant and the smart speakers that come with them.

Over 270 million Americans own a smartphone in a population of 327 million persons. Close to 50 million own smartspeakers like the Amazon Echo and the Google Home Mini. Together, smartphones and smartspeakers enable medical assistance that is now only a few clicks or a voice command away.

Amazon on Thursday announced Alexa can now manage its user’s sensitive health information. Alexa users will now be able to use about half a dozen new Alexa health skills to ask questions such as, “Alexa, find me a doctor,” and receive a prompt response.

Voice technology is regarded as a major breakthrough in healthcare, particularly for seniors, kids and persons with mobility problems. Google is also expected to provide a similar service soon.

One Amazon executive said Alexa’s new medical skills are designed to help customers manage a variety of healthcare needs at home simply using voice. Using Alexa, customers can book medical appointment and check on the status of a prescription delivery, for example.

With Alexa, patients and caregivers at Boston Children’s can ask specific questions about their case from the healthcare team. Doctors can remotely check in on the child’s recovery process. All these fantastic connections are made possible by the existence of big data, which is one of the most important creations of the digital age. Big data refers to the indescribable amounts of data collected from a variety of sources that are processed and used for analytics.

By its very nature, healthcare absorbs tremendous amounts of data from patients and healthcare providers. Experts say big data can predict epidemics, avoid preventable deaths, improve the quality of life, improve the efficiency and quality of care and develop new drugs and treatments, among others.

The cloud, an almost limitless virtual hard drive, allows instant access to big data and the massive amounts of medical information it holds. This new ability to easily share big data has helped lead to the development of life-saving drugs and improved healthcare worldwide.

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