Medical Technology

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Medical Technology

      Technology and its effects have brought the greatest changes to our lives, societies and environments.   Technology has helped developing more advanced economies and lessening physical barriers to communication and allowing humans to interact on a global scale through the inventions of printing press, telephones, computers and finally the Internet. However, technological developments such weapons and nuclear bombs have multiplied the destructive power and pollution on societies.   One technological change that may have the largest effect on our lives today is the rapid growth of medical technology. Three main effects that medical technology has impacted our modern society are prolonging lifespan, improving quality of health care and promoting nation’s economic growth. Medical technology is referred as the procedures (e.g., angioplasty), equipments (e.g., MRI, CT Scanners) and processes (e.g., electronic medical records) by which medical care is delivered.   The first effect that medical technology has brought to our society is extending life expectancy.   For example, technology have changed health outcomes over time is in the treatment of pre-term babies, for which very little could be done in 1950.  But by 1990, changes in technology, including special ventilators, artificial pulmonary surfactant to help infant lungs develop, neonatal intensive care, and steroids for mother and/or baby, helped decrease mortality to one-third its 1950 level, with an overall increase in life expectancy of about 12 years per low-birth weight baby.1       Heart attack, the leading cause of death in the U.S. is another example of how new medical technology has changed the treatment and prevention of this disease over time.  In the 1980s, blood-thinning agents were used after a heart attack to prevent reoccurrences, beta-blocker therapy evolved from short-term therapy immediately after a heart attack to maintenance therapy, and angioplasty was used after heart attack patients were stable.  In the 1990s, more effective drugs were introduced to inhibit clot formation, angioplasty was used for treatment and revascularization along with stents to keep blood vessels open, cardiac rehabilitation programs were implemented sooner, and implantable cardiac defibrillators were used in certain patients with irregular heartbeats.  In the 2000s, new drug strategies were developed (aspirin, ACE inhibitors) for long-term management of heart attack and potential heart attack patients.  From 1980-2000, the overall mortality rate from heart attack fell by almost half, from 345.2 to 186.0 per 100,000 persons.2       The second effect that medical technology has impacted our society is the quality improvement of health care.   Major technological advances have furnished the clinical ability to help patients cope with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, HIV-AIDS.   Specialists were trained to use new technologies to provide better diagnosis, make fast and more complete cures, increase safety of medical treatments, and minimize side effects.   To ensure that drugs and medical technologies are safe and effective for their intended usage, they need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by law.   For example, better anesthetic agents and practices have reduced the burden of surgery on patients, producing faster patient recoveries, shorter hospital stays, and fewer medical errors.        The third effect of medical technology is the promotion of economic growth. Because consumers demand for better health, advanced medical technology are perceived as ways to promote these goals. Direct care providers incorporate new technology because they want to improve the services they offer to their patients, but they also may feel the need to offer the “latest and best” as they compete with other providers for patients.  Health care professionals, like people in other occupations, are also motivated by professional goals (e.g., peer...
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