The advancement of technology has spurred medical advancement and in turn, allowed medical professionals to provide higher quality life-saving medications and treatment options. In the medical industry today, improved access to care and information, along with AI, robotics, and 3D printing has transformed the way doctors and specialists deliver services and treat many medical issues.
Access to Care and New Medications
The continued development of new medications has had a profound impact on standards of living in the United States and across the world. Life expectancy has now risen from a mere 47 years at the beginning of the 20th century to 78 years today. New innovations in therapy treatments have also contributed to a 22% decline in cancer deaths since the early 1990s. Today research is continuing to discover new, more effective treatments and medications that further boost survival rates and allow people to experience higher-quality lives during and after medical treatment.
Currently, over 187 million Americans are taking one or more prescription medications and medical innovation is estimated to be the largest contributor of nearly half of all economic growth in the U.S. over the past 50 years. Creating a new medication can take decades of dedication, research, and clinical trials. Today, many of these medications are created by looking at specific processes that cause diseases or symptoms and using that knowledge and research as a starting point for development.
Scientists begin by identifying a target, which can be either a molecule or pathway that contributes to the development of a particular disease. Once a target is located, it is evaluated to ensure validation. This is so that scientists can be certain that the target is indeed affecting the disease or causing it. Technological breakthroughs in biological data concerning phenotypic and genotypic data have made this process more successful in recent years, leading to a greater understanding of many diseases.
Once a target has been validated and confirmed, the next step to creating a new medication entails finding specific molecules that can either inhibit or enhance activity. For instance, molecules that enhance a target could be used in research for medications that help the body produce a larger amount of a lacking hormone. Currently, methods exist that allow for hundreds of compounds to be screened quickly for ‘hits’ or activity that produces the outcome desired.
It is though advanced processes like this that more and more life-altering medications are created and introduced for use in treatment programs. This surge in accessibility to new innovative treatments has and will continue to benefit both medical science and individual patients as more insights and breakthroughs are made.
Storage and Transport
One of the largest hurdles faced by the pharmaceutical and medical industries is the loss of product due to improper shipping and storage conditions. On average, $150,000 is lost per small package shipment due to slips in temperature. This can impact hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies if the lost produce contributes to a shortage in the products. To prevent this, pharmaceutical manufacturers need to work closely with shipping agencies to ensure that fewer temperature fluctuations can occur and that all proper storage and transport requirements are being met. It is also up to hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies to establish storage and handling procedures that mitigate the risk of harmful fluctuations that could damage medications and render them less effective or useless.
The Risks and Benefits Countered by 3D Printing and Innovation
There is no doubt that medical intervention has saved countless lives and improved the quality of life for others. However, there are still considerations, risks, and benefits to each which must be understood. Board considerations can include:
- The treatment providers skill
- How long the impact of treatment will last
- The risk of failure without intervention and the potentially harmful outcomes of treatment
- The selection of the patient (if they are a suitable candidate)
For example, today over 600,000 complete knee replacements take place worldwide every year. Often this surgery will help alleviate pain, improve motion, and increase the quality of life. However, this surgery can also carry risks related to potentially life-threatening complications from infections, nerve injury, anesthesia, and deep vein thromboses. The decision to undergo this type of treatment includes many factors including a patient’s age and overall health. Obesity, for instance, is one of the most complicating factors that impacts nearly one-third of patients. Considerations for this type of surgery have increased in recent years to help mitigate risks and find the best balance between benefit and risk. That said, medical interventions have also increased to offer inventive solutions to knee replacement.
3D printing is now allowing manufacturers to create incredibly strong, yet flexible, replacement devices that lower the risk of future surgery or rejection. Likewise, the introduction of robotic assistance during knee replacement surgery has also helped improve accuracy during the procedure and potentially cut down on recovery time due to the use of smaller incisions. Innovations like this demonstrate further how advancement is benefiting treatments across the board.
Switching to Digital
Advancements in digital technology have also made it possible for seamless communication and faster data transmission throughout the medical industry. With the introduction of fiber optic connections, information can now be shared faster than ever. Traditional cable and DSL transmission have hard-capped speed limits, whereas fiber optic cables can transmit data just under the speed of light. This near-instantaneous transmission makes communication easier and allows important information to received without delay. In an industry where every second can be the difference between life and death, advancements like this can make a true difference.
Furthermore, by transitioning to digital file storage and communication, the medical industry helps cut back on the amount of unnecessary paper waste. On average, a standard business in the U.S. sees an increase in paper output by up to 25% every year. While paper will never be completely eliminated from the medical field, utilizing digital alternatives can help keep files safer, make access easier, and reduce expensive waste.
Across the medical and pharmaceutical industries innovation and advancement have helped create new life-saving medications and treatments. Innovations such as the ones mentioned above have helped increase life expectancy and improve the quality of life for billions of people. Furthermore, technological advancements have also benefited medical professionals by giving them higher-quality tools and better means of data transmission and storage. If innovation continues at its current rate, we can continue to expect more effective medications and treatment solutions, as well as more effective surgical tools and continued benefits for everyone.