Filter Stories By

How technology is transforming healthcare

As seen in The Orange County Register
Imagine a future in which every surgery requires a very small to non-existent incision. A future in which nano-robots are injected into your body to fight heart disease. Where your pacemaker will text your doctor if it senses there is something wrong.
Some of this technology is already here; the rest is just around the corner. Medical technology is moving so quickly that the next three years will see as many advances as the last 20.
If you think that sounds like hyperbole, just try to imagine your life without your smartphone. (Stop trembling: It’s just an exercise.) You’d probably be incapacitated without your iPhone, but it’s likely you didn’t even own one until three or four years ago. You functioned just fine then; now you can’t live without it. That’s how quickly technology can insert itself into our world and completely transform our lives.
Nowhere is that more true than in medicine.
Leading-edge technology like the type we are using at Hoag promises a future of more personalized and more rapid healthcare than ever before.
Hoag’s new hybrid operating room allows surgeons to receive 3D and 4D real-time diagnostic imaging of the body and perform minimally invasive cardiovascular surgeries at the same time through small key hole incisions. The first of its in kind in Orange County, the Bob & Marjie Bennett Hybrid Cardiovascular Operating Room has already made heart surgeries safer and recovery times faster, revolutionizing the current approach to cardiac surgery.
Traditionally, for example, heart valve replacement surgery involved cutting through the chest bone with a saw, stopping the heart and a long recovery time. Now it involves a tiny incision in the groin and the precise placement of a new heart valve under real time imaging, without the need to stop the heart. Instead of three months of recovery, patients can go home in a few days and do their grocery shopping within a week.
The hybrid operating room is unique and requires specialized training, but we’ll look back 10 years from now and marvel that all ORs weren’t equipped like this.
Another interesting advancement is the use of wireless technology for monitoring patients’ health remotely. Recently, technology has allowed doctors to check on their patients’ pace makers and make any necessary adjustments remotely. A patient could be in Cancun and his doctor could be in Finland, but they could use technology to virtually come together and improve that patient’s health.
It’s also safe to say, that we’re not far off from surgery that will be performed with computer assisted voice activation – or even with simple eye movements – rather than with our hands. It could be that before a doctor even walks into an operating room, technology will allow him to perform a trial run of the entire surgery on his computer, allowing him to see what types of complications could arise, allowing him to avoid any problems during the real surgery.
I predict that the very nature of what a doctor does will change. Instead of cutting people open and prescribing drugs we hope will work, we will become health managers, remotely monitoring your health, answering your questions on health-centric social media sites and helping you to avoid medical pitfalls rather than trying to fix problems after they arise.
With all this innovation, it’s possible that one day the image of a doctor like myself will seem as outdated as a car phone.
I’m looking forward to it.
Dr. Jacques Kpodonu is the program director of Hoag’s Cardiovascular Surgical Hybrid and Endovascular Therapies Program