The field of health care is dynamic and ever-evolving. As researchers learn more about the human body, medical innovations continue to emerge and impress.
New developments arise so quickly that it’s challenging to keep up with the latest ones. Here are seven examples of innovation in health care that continue to amaze.
1. Fitness for Every Body
Say goodbye to the one-size-poorly-fits-all exercise programs you learned in high school gym class. Today’s health care innovations include custom programs and gadgets that let everyone, even those with physical challenges, get in the game.
It’s no secret that Americans are getting bigger. While exercise is one way to combat obesity, many people who fall into this category struggle with mobility challenges, and standard equipment might not fit their bodies. Today, they can find high-weight-capacity elliptical machines and recumbent bikes to help them start shedding excess pounds.
Land-based exercises can challenge those with arthritis and other pain conditions. However, aquatic exercise can remedy this. Water’s density — 800 times that of air — combined with its ability to improve venous return and lymphatic pressure makes movement more comfortable for rheumatoid arthritis or diabetic neuropathy. Specialized lift machines can help those who struggle to enter the water safely.
The more researchers learn, the more they recognize exercise’s capacity to ease chronic pain and improve quality of life. New technologies that bring fitness to everyone do more than add years to lives by preventing and healing disorders like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. They also add life to those years.
2. Genetic Personalization
If you ever had a mental illness like anxiety or depression, you might be familiar with the medication shuffle. Because antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs need time to take effect, it takes four to six weeks before you can tell if a given prescription will work for your unique biology. If it doesn’t, you’ve just wasted a month and a half feeling unnecessarily miserable.
However, the modern magic of pharmacogenomics utilizes genetic testing to determine which medications will most likely benefit you, have no effect or cause adverse reactions. Your doctor can use blood testing or even a cheek swab to collect your DNA and perform the analysis. The result is enduring far less suffering while you and your health care team determine the best prescription treatment course.
Genetic testing can also advise you about your risk of developing particular disorders so you can take proactive steps to prevent their development. Many remember when celebrity Angelina Jolie underwent a double mastectomy after learning she had a mutation in her BRCA1 gene tied to an elevated risk of breast cancer. While you may not decide to go to this extreme, you can take comfort in knowing your risks and options.
3. Telehealth Visits
The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic probably made you think twice about visiting your doctor unless you were knocking on heaven’s door. While limited practitioners still make house calls, more physicians now embrace telemedicine’s power to bring the doctor’s visit to your living room. Recent government easements on restrictions on this care modality — paired with its cost-effectiveness — have made seeing your doctor by Zoom or Doxy something easy to do from your couch.
However, distance health care can do much more than slashing your carbon emissions the next time you need a med check visit. Technology can help you get your prescriptions, too. Such devices can help prevent logistical delays in delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) to first responders, but they can also help get you your Parkinson’s medications when you can no longer drive.
4. Home Monitoring Systems
The human body is a magical yet frustrating beast. In less advanced times, heart patients often waited for the classic “elephant on the chest” feeling before seeking emergency care. Unfortunately, delaying care hurt many patients — particularly women, who often exhibit heart attack symptoms like nausea and cold sweats instead of the typical ones.
You can now wear an electrocardiogram (EKG) machine on your wrist and get science-based alerts for when you should call 911. These devices measure your heart’s electrical activity and can save the lives of those with atrial fibrillation (Afib). The devices are far less bulky than the octopus-like ones your doctor can prescribe for up to 30 days. Plus, you can remove them to soak in the bath, and they aren’t limited to one month of use.
5. Stem Cell Innovation
Stem cells have raised considerable controversy, but innovative health care researchers have found ways to use them to do everything from improving skin tone to repairing rodent spinal cords in hopes of someday reversing human paralysis.
Not all stem cells come from embryos, and those that researchers harvest from consenting adult volunteers raise fewer ethical considerations. Adult mesenchymal cells can grow outside the body, and when they do, they create a cultured medium that inspires your body to tell your cells to start regenerating.
6. Electronic Medical Recordkeeping
If you ever had to switch doctors because your employer swapped your insurance policy, you know that acquainting a new care team with your needs is a challenge. Fortunately, electronic medical recordkeeping can help ease the transition by providing a seamless record across multiple providers.
Such systems may have arisen from the need to prevent doctor shopping as America addresses the opioid crisis. When pharmacies can instantly check for multiple filled prescriptions at other locations, they can prevent potentially fatal overdoses.
7. 3D Printing
3D printing offers multiple benefits to the health care world. Doctors can design prosthetic limbs using such technology to custom-fit the prosthetic to the recipient’s body. They also save costs — a standard prosthetic hand can cost thousands, but a 3D version only rings in at around $50.
Such technologies could also help provide other assistive devices to disadvantaged populations. 3D-printed eyeglass frames and wrist-braces can slash manufacturer and consumer costs.
Learn More About These Impressive Innovations in Health Care
Health care innovations continue to impress and make life more comfortable for millions. Anyone can get sick, and it pays to know your treatment options whenever you need to turn to the medical system.