For the past few years, I have written periodically on the increasing use of technology in medicine, covering topics such as the smartphone apps that help patients monitor their medications, the use of robots in medical surgeries, and innovative sensors that detect various biomedical markers.
Recently, it was my turn to personally experience medical technology at work.
During the latter part of 2019 I started experiencing increasing groin pain. During my annual physical this past November, my primary care physician diagnosed me with inguinal hernia, a condition where part of the intestinal tissue protrudes through a weak spot in the abdominal muscles. In many cases (including mine), laparoscopic surgery is used to repair the surgery using a synthetic mesh. This requires the surgeon making several abdominal incisions in the patient, who is placed under general anesthesia.
Laparoscopic surgery for inguinal hernia is an established procedure whereby the patient often goes home the same day. With reasonable confidence in the technique and my primary care doctor’s referral to a good surgeon, I decided to proceed with the surgery.
From the outset, the increasing use of modern health technology through various stages of this experience was evident. The first was digital medicine. My primary care physician, who previously had his own practice, joined a large medical group in November that used an online patient portal to keep track of appointments and store patient data. Mind you, this was the same doctor who previously who took notes manually during examinations and kept medical records in filing cabinets. The medical practice group he joined forced him to change his old ways.
While I wasn’t initially accustomed to logging into a patient portal or getting text messages asking to confirm appointments, I caught on fast enough. Prior to my pre-surgery appointment, I logged into the portal to enter my medical history. It is easier to enter medical information in the privacy of your home on the computer than scramble to check off a paper form in the office the day of your appointment.
Fast forward to my medical appointments During both my pre-surgery and day of surgery check-ins, I identified myself to the office staff by having my hand scanned on tablet-like devices that use fingerprint sensors not unlike some of the ones I’ve written about. Also, while there was paperwork, other administrative forms were contained on digital tablets which required my signatures via handwriting recognition.
When it was time for my surgery, I had the familiar array of tubes and monitors hooked up to me. I was, however, greeting with a pleasant surprise: in the cold operating room, I was given several heated blankets which immediately made me feel more comfortable given what I was about to go through. Before I knew it, I was out like a light as the anesthesia took over.
I was obviously knocked out during the entire laparoscopic surgical procedure so couldn’t see what tools were being used. However, laparoscopic surgery has benefited in recent years from advances in laparoscopes as well as precision surgical tools.
The surgery went off without a hitch, though not surprisingly I was quite groggy for a while afterwards. Several days later as I write this article, I still feel some of the post-surgical effects as I gradually recover.
The experience of seeing modern medical technology at work, starting from booking doctor visits to the experience in the operating room, has shown me first-hand that the myriad developments taking place in medical technology is paying off in a better patient experience and more efficient operating procedures.