Cocaine used as anesthesia. Heroin as an asthma treatment. Leeches as a remedy for all manners of ailments. Morphine recommended to calm a teething baby. Radium-filled water given for arthritis pain.
The history of medicine is filled with extraordinary treatments and theories that today are looked upon as not just kooky, but downright dangerous. The more one learns about the cockamamie ideas espoused by doctors as recently as the early 20th, the more astonishing it is that humans have survived for so long!
But survived we have, and today there are more exciting breakthroughs in the field of medicine than ever before. Read on to learn about a few advances that prove what a golden age of healthcare we are experiencing!
Have you ever known someone who seemed impervious to painkillers? Often, people who require a higher-than-average doses of opioids appear to be drug-seeking or chasing a high, but that’s not always the case. Tolerance for, and reaction to, medications varies widely. In fact, redheads have been shown to require 20% more anesthesia than others.
Pharmacogenomic testing, or drug-gene testing, is a way to predict how a particular person will react to a particular drug based on his or her genetics. It looks not just at the efficacy of a medication, but also at potential side effects and adverse reactions.
One of the most promising applications of pharmacogenomics is that it could be used to more accurately prescribe opioid medications, thereby helping to combat the current opioid crisis. As genomic testing in general becomes more commonplace, gene-drug testing may help put powerful painkillers in the hands of people who truly need them, and out of reach for everyone else.
3D Printing of Medical Devices
Did you know that the earliest prosthetics date back to ancient Egypt? Peg legs and hooks for hands are the stuff of pirate lore — not to mention urban legend horror stories — but being able to replace a missing limb or other body part with a working prosthetic device is incredibly valuable for a patient’s physical and psychological well-being.
The invention of 3D printing has made an enormous difference in the quality, functionality, and affordability of artificial limbs. Tailor-making a limb or orthopedic implant according to the individual patient’s specifications helps the body accept it, makes it more comfortable, and improves post-prosthetic quality of life.
One day, it might be as commonplace to print a new hand for a person as it currently is to print a book.
If you still think of robots as clunky metal creatures that move stiffly while intoning “beep boop” or “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Dave” — you need to get up to speed. Today, robot-assisted technology helps surgeons to operate with more precision, accuracy, flexibility, and control. Using robots, surgeons can conduct operations that would otherwise be deemed too delicate, detailed, complex, or risky.
Surgical outcomes are also improved through the use of robotics. These outcomes include less pain and faster recovery. And although we’ll always need the skilled expertise of an experienced surgeon, robots help eliminate human error.
Telemedicine and Other Technological Advances
Having to drag yourself to the doctor when you’re suffering from the flu can be a real — well, a real drag. Of course, visiting a physician’s office, clinic or hospital when you have come down with an infectious disease also posits a very real risk of transmitting that disease. These are just two of the reasons that telemedicine is poised to revolutionize the healthcare industry.
Patients benefit from telemedicine because a video doctor visit saves time and money, is easy, and eliminates the odds of infecting, or being infected by, other sick people. Not only that, but they can be seen 24/7 without having to wait for hours in a crowded emergency department.
From the provider standpoint, telemedicine can relieve the burden of overbooked practices and the shortage of medical providers that plagues much of the country. It also helps cut down on overhead expenses and frees up nurses and physicians’ assistants to devote more time to patients who require in-person care.
Even when a provider’s diagnostic services aren’t required, technology can streamline every aspect of medical care. From booking appointments to requesting prescriptions, patient can now use an Android or iPhone app for medical records management, communication, screening potential drug interactions, and much more.
These are truly exciting times for the healthcare industry, and the people who require its services. Robots in the operating room, personalized prescription medicine, and the ability to connect with your physician at the touch of a button are just a few of the advances that we can look forward to in 2019 and beyond.