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07/08/13

Preventive Medicine Blog Series - Part VI: Cloud & Medical Technology

by Rutvik Joglekar, July 8th, 2013

Technology, in the same way that it has altered the way we live, continues to revolutionize medicine; but rather than only focusing on medical equipment used for the treatment of diseases, we must explore technology utilized in the sphere of preventive medicine as well.

While certain devices are well known to us - CT scans, MRIs, etc., many opportunities beyond these standard technologies exist. For example, electronic health records (EHR), or, in other words, computerized medical files containing patient data and stored in a cloud, are currently being researched by numerous organizations. EHRs would include a wide variety of data, including patient demographics, vaccinations, allergies, previous medications, past medical history, and other personal health-related information.

The use of cloud technology in medicine has the capacity to bring sufficient benefits to both patients and the healthcare industry. In terms of preventive medicine, centralized data can quickly be analyzed to predict if certain individuals are more susceptible to some diseases than others; precautions can be taken accordingly. Additionally, EHRs eliminate much of the guesswork involved during doctor visits when physicians ask patients for information regarding their medical history.

For healthcare providers, while the creation of the system may initially be costly, the U.S. Congressional Budget Office predicts that vast cost savings may occur over the long run. Moreover, a cloud system will inevitably simplify inter-physician communication.

Despite the considerable amount of benefits stemming from cloud technology, some opponents express concern about the potential breaches of privacy. Although certainly possible, before such a system is implemented, both legislators and the industry would need to craft and develop mechanisms to prevent possible problems; with the advent of social media and easily accessible consumer information online, however, concerns of privacy should not be a major concern.

The introduction of EHRs would not only simplify communication and the storing of health records, it may also allow medical professionals to preemptively fight diseases. With further research, the benefits of cloud technologies may expand to other industries as well.

(For additional trends in Preventive Medicine see: Here)

Sources
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1550638/
http://www.cbo.gov/publication/41690