Discussing recent advancements of technology in medicine and the ethics behind them
A robot that serves as a surgical assistant in a hospital. A nanodevice in the form of a pill that can explore your entire digestive system in a matter of minutes. 3D-printed biotissues to replace ones lost in a fire.
Fascinated yet? All of these are examples of the numerous technological advancements in healthcare and medicine.
The future of medicine is shaping right in front of our very own eyes, yet there is a lot more to medical technology than what meets the eye. Yes, it is a huge asset to society, but what about the ethical and equity concerns surrounding technology in healthcare? Well, recent advancements may be able to tackle these controversies and ensure a promising future.
Dr. Punam Gupta, a Medical Doctor specializing in Internal Medicine, shares her overarching opinion on technology in medicine.
“[Medical technology] is very informative and beneficial for everyone,” Gupta said. “But we should use it with the right motivation and understanding, [instead of] misusing or taking advantage of it.”
Advancements in Medical Technology
Many new technologies have been developed for use in a medical setting over the past few years, especially with an increased demand for medical technology during the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has proven crucial to the development of medical technology, with the potential to completely redesign healthcare. From supercomputers to robots, AI can not only help medical staff but help patients as well. We see examples of this everywhere — a company in Russia developed ExoChair, an exoskeleton assisting surgeons by helping them stand for long periods of time and fight fatigue. Google’s DeepMind created an AI to help detect breast cancer, outperforming human radiologists by 11.5%.
Ted Shinta, the Instructional Technology teacher at MVHS, emphasizes the impact of AI in medicine.
“There’s a lot of automation that’s going on in medicine and the big revolution to me is AI,” Shinta said. “It’s really going to change how medicine is done in the future… it’s getting more and more powerful.”
Similarly, Nanotechnology has sparked recent interest with multitudes of microbots underway. A nanotechnology device called the PillCam is a noninvasive way to explore one’s colon, possibly being able to take biopsy samples in the future. Nanotechnology has the potential to take on responsibilities such as drug delivery to even mini-surgery!
Another huge endeavor in medical technology is the adaptation of Virtual Reality (VR). A major use of VR in the medical setting, produced by companies like Osso VR and ImmersiveTouch, is to train surgeons to practice operations. In fact, a Harvard Business Review study showed a 230% boost in the overall performance of VR-trained surgeons compared to traditionally-trained surgeons.
Technology is even used in vaccine-making. In fact, the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine that 98 million people in America have received so far, runs on genetic technology. It uses synthetic messenger RNA to help assist in protein production and more.
Last, but definitely not least, there are several wearable devices and gadgets used in healthcare. From FitBits that can track sleep and exercise to a Muse Headband that can assist in meditation, new gadgets in medicine have proven to be very efficient in patient tracking. Even day-to-day computers are being used for telemedicine and telecommunications.
An Interdisciplinary Approach
Unfortunately, although technology has many benefits in the world of medicine and healthcare, there are ethical concerns surrounding the topic. The two main concerns revolve around accessibility and privacy.
Let’s face it, technology can be expensive. Many people all around the world don’t have the means to gain access to medical technologies, and this lack of accessibility prohibits them from being able to get the care they may need.
Additionally, when using technology, all medical information is often stored and never deleted. This information in the wrong hands could negatively impact thousands of lives.
“[Imagine that] someone applies for a job but then has their [application] rejected because of medical data that was accessed [by the company],” Shinta said. “It’s a prejudice… you [can] be excluded because of certain conditions that you may have.”
However, people and hospitals alike have started to target these ethical concerns surrounding medical technology, and hope to continue doing so.
“Hospitals are defined to help patients and their needs first,” Gupta said. “Patient care is the [number one] priority. Their care, treatment, management and privacy are all incredibly important.”
Many non-profit organizations such as MedShare are helping to donate medical technology to those in need. Laws such as the HIPAA Laws have been put in place in an effort to avoid privacy concerns surrounding medical technology.
MVHS Senior Ellie Kim shares her opinion on medical technology and the concerns surrounding it.
“Medical practitioners and doctors today always look out for your health at the utmost front and there’s always statistical evidence [behind what they do],” Kim said. “So I’m yet to reject a specific [medical technology] that has been proven with data and [that’s] beneficial to the people.”
There are many things we can do to assist in the technological developments of medicine. Biomedical engineering, biotechnology and bioengineering are three fields of study that show much promise in the future, with many more advancements to come. However, one need not pursue a career to help. We can help tackle the ethical concerns surrounding medical technology by contributing to organizations that increase accessibility or by donating to hospitals that may need the money.
“[If hospitals get] more patients, they need more equipment and thus [need to] expand their expenses,” Gupta said. “So, donating definitely helps and is [a very beneficial] gesture, even if we cannot just depend on [solely donations].”
Ultimately, technology in medicine and healthcare is advancing quicker than ever. Not only are scientists and engineers creating new applications of technology to help medical staff and patients, but many are also working on conquering all of the ethical and equity concerns surrounding the topic.
“Biomedicine, bioengineering, biotechnology, medical technology in general… [they’re all] really multidisciplinary,” Shinta said. “[They’re] the wave of the future.”