You only have to wind back 50 years to see the enormous changes which have taken place in our hospitals.
Computers and technology have become an integral part of every procedure, with an increasing reliance on electronic wizardry to carry out everything from getting results of a DNA paternity test to performing a life-saving procedure.
We take a look at how technology has changed in hospitals and how it continues to impact the way in which they operate.
At its most base level, technology has given the arduous hospital administration system a complete overhaul, dragging it from the Dark Ages kicking and screaming into the modern world.
Gone are the days where medical records got lost travelling down the corridor from one department to the next and precious test results simply were consigned to history, forcing the patient to undergo yet more, not only an inconvenience but also an increased cost.
The central computerisation of patients’ records means that the results of complex tests can be uploaded and shared between departments simply at the press of a button. There are no further excuses about different doctors not having all of the information, as records can even be shared between different hospitals.
The next step is for instructions for tests to be sent electronically; this is not yet commonplace with one study showing just 12% of hospitals have this procedure up and running. The remaining 78% still insist on sending patients wandering through the corridors armed with a slip of paper – not exactly cutting edge technology at its best…
Using gaming technology
Incredible though it may sound, the advancement of the gaming industry has had a huge impact on the way in which hospitals work, revolutionising surgical procedures.
The X-box 360 system known as Kinect allows players to simply wave their hands in the air in order to move icons around on screen, a truly intuitive piece of technology.
Recognising the potential for this, the same software has been adopted by hospitals in order to improve surgical procedures.
Carrying out complex procedures based on information provided by CT or MRI scans can be a feat of memory for the surgeon. Forced to try and recall the exact images shown on the scan, if they previously needed to go back and look at the data again, it meant stepping outside the sterile zone, manipulating the image manually and then having to scrub up again. Not only is this an inconvenience, the process leaves the patient under anaesthesia for longer and puts the onus on the surgeon to be able to recall every minute detail.
Kinect has changed all of this.
The computer has now been brought into the operating theatre, becoming almost ‘one of the team’. If the surgeon needs another look at the image, he simply has to turn around, and with a few simple waves of his hand, can manipulate the screen view as much as he wants without compromising the sterile environment. Having the image so close at hand, and being able to twist, turn and tweak the view without causing a problem is proving to be a huge benefit to both the surgical team, and consequently the patient.
Of course, regardless of how many other advances are made, without proper hygiene control, hospitals can be rendered useless in a flash. It just takes one superbug to paralyse a unit, suspending admissions and closing valuable beds.
For this reason, much work has been put into improving the technology around hospital cleaning
More modern hospitals are at an advantage here, as contemporary designs deliberately have eradicated crevices in furniture and room design, thus making it more difficult for germs to linger. Robots which emit a fine disinfectant spray have been very effective in covering large areas quickly, cleaning areas and preparing them for the next patient far more quickly than a manual scrub down.
Surveillance software is also being utilised in order to identify any infection trends in the earliest stages, allowing staff to then take action before the virus has had the chance to spread and take over. Special liquids have also been developed which allow bacteria to be seen under a black light; a technique used to check how thorough a room has been cleaned and to identify any residual germs.
Finally, even the most basic of equipment, the old-fashioned mop, has undergone a radical overhaul. No long made of cotton, it is now comprised of special fibres which are able to hold six times more dirt and water and also have a positive charge, attracting dirt automatically.
If all of the above measures don’t sound robust enough, something as simple as having a private room has been shown to be one of the simplest – yet effective – ways of dramatically reducing infections in a hospital. Click here to discover more about jobs in Nuffield Healthcare hospitals.
Technology has pervaded every aspect of hospital life, radically changing the administration, the cleaning and even the way in which surgery is performed. We look back over the last half a century and wonder how we managed in such primitive conditions; yet the speed in which technology is currently taking over means that the chances are that in another 50 years’ time, the current set-up will seem positively prehistoric.
Image credits: Muffet and Ano Lobb. @healthyrx