Technology infects regional healthcare industry

Hospitals everywhere are going high-tech. ACN looks at some of the technology trends currently shaping the medical profession.

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By  Team ACN Published  August 16, 2008

Hospitals everywhere are going high-tech. ACN looks at some of the technology trends currently shaping the medical profession.

Health is hot right now - especially in the Middle East. In addition to regional governments pumping billions into new hospitals and clinics, private medical providers are also pouring into locations such as Dubai Healthcare City and similar facilities in Saudi Arabia, amongst others.

In addition to the growing indigenous populations and resident workers, many visitors are now coming to the region for elective surgery - often cosmetic - as part of a vacation. These so-called ‘medical tourists', along with increasingly demanding residents, want the best in modern medicine - and IT is helping healthcare providers to deliver.

These 'medical tourists', along with increasingly demanding residents, want the best in modern medicine – and IT is helping healthcare providers to deliver.

Here ACN runs down some of the latest innovations to hit the hospitals, as well as some of the more interesting uses of the technology on offer.

Healthcare Information Management Systems

Not as glamorous or exciting as telemedicine or advanced imaging systems are, Healthcare Information Management Systems (HIMS) are nevertheless probably one of the most critical contributions IT can make to medicine.

Many healthcare systems around the world - even in the West - still rely on paper-based records, as well as physical images from X-ray scans and other procedures.

Pretty much the only remaining advantage to paper records is their inability to crash - but otherwise the potential electronic records hold for improving patient care is considerable.

HIMS systems, at their simplest, offer a way of recording, storing and retrieving patient information without the inconvenience of pulling a physical record.

This allows different areas and systems throughout a medical facility to act in a much more coordinated way - for example, it will be much harder to mis-prescribe drugs due to a missing record of patient allergies or medication conflicts.

Interlinked record systems also allow medical professionals other than a patient's main doctor to have full access to their records - potentially a vital advantage in the case of an emergency.

This, however, is a major point of controversy - security issues and concerns about who will have access to electronic records mean many healthcare providers have had strong objections about moving to comprehensive HIMS.

The UK's National Health Service is a case in point - massive public concern forced the organisation to backtrack on some of its plans for electronic records, and offering patients opt-outs and additional guarantees of security.

HIMS also offer substantial logistical and administrative functions, similar - or identical - to more general ERP systems, but geared specifically towards medical institutions.

Telemedicine

For most people, telemedicine is probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of high-tech healthcare - it's certainly the area that has most caught the public's imagination.

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