In March, as in each month of the year, a number of annual campaigns are scheduled to raise awareness about specific health issues.
This month, national initiatives are under way for conditions that include brain injuries, hemophilia, colorectal cancer, developmental disabilities, kidney disease and eye health.
Technology has long been a key driver in advancing the treatment and prevention of health conditions. The introduction of instruments such as microscopes and stethoscopes helped physicians understand basic health issues, and the arrival of X-rays and sterilization devices for surgical instruments brought further advancements in medical knowledge and practice.
Improvements in laboratory technology created a quantum leap in our understanding of bacteria and viruses, which led in turn to vaccinations for longstanding plagues such as smallpox and polio.
The earlier era of medical technology development set the stage for a massive influx of new equipment and devices in the past 25 years — a wave that has greatly enhanced our ability to effectively diagnose, treat and prevent chronic diseases.
Technology has provided health care professionals with new windows into the body, revolutionizing treatment. Imaging techniques, such as CT scans and MRIs, reveal health conditions far earlier than previously possible, allowing for early intervention that saves lives. Advances in fiber optics make possible small cameras used in arthroscopic procedures that have reduced the need for risky and debilitating invasive surgeries.
A corresponding increase in data must be managed and processed to meet treatment, insurance and regulatory requirements. It’s increasingly likely that you’ll see physicians and nurses with iPads and tablets in hand as they collect and track treatment information.
These mobile devices help clinicians organize and easily access information on patients’ conditions, as well as explain health issues to patients and caregivers.
A recent NPD Group survey found that 73 percent of small- and mid-size medical practices expected to purchase tablets in 2012. The iPad, according to Aptilon, is the preferred choice among 70 percent of doctors.
Patients also are being empowered with knowledge that helps them not only understand their conditions, but also prepare for discussions with their doctors.
Many people are using online health information sites, such as WebMD (www.webmd.com), to change the dynamics of the doctor-patient relationship. Rather than just accepting diagnoses, patients are establishing a dialogue with caregivers and asking educated questions about their health conditions.
It’s easy to stay abreast of the latest advances in health care treatments and technologies using the Internet to gain greater empowerment in your own care. I encourage everyone to get online and use the power of information to stay healthy.
• Denise Sperle, a volunteer columnist for the Irrigator, is the Central Valley general manager for Frontier Communications. She welcomes questions about technology and Internet safety at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.frontier.com.