The alliance between technology and medicine has been a long and powerful one. However, the impact of tech innovation on the healthcare industry has perhaps never been more apparent or important than it is today.
Indeed, the digital revolution is rapidly transforming the practice of medicine, as new technologies emerge to galvanize almost every domain of healthcare practice. This includes often breathtaking advancements in the areas of medical diagnosis and treatment planning, patient monitoring, and home-based and in-clinic care.
No matter how promising emerging medical technologies may be, though, without comprehensive and accurate testing, these systems may well fall short of their purpose and potential.
This article explores med tech innovation and the role of testing to ensure unprecedented standards of care both now and in the future.
The Med Tech Revolution
The integration of medicine and technology is nothing new. Indeed, the healthcare industry has long been at the forefront of technological innovation.
With the advent of the digital revolution, however, technology has both optimized and, often, supplanted traditional standards of medical practice.
The ascendancy of telehealth, for instance, has changed healthcare delivery in extraordinary ways. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare providers and policymakers alike turned to telemedicine, for instance, to ensure consistency of patient care while mitigating viral spread.
At the same time, the rise of virtual care enabled patients to access treatment from the comfort and the safety of their own homes. For historically marginalized and underserved patient populations, including the elderly, those with disabilities, and those who live in remote areas, the ability to receive medical care anytime, anywhere through a secure online portal may well constitute a level of healthcare access they have never previously enjoyed.
In addition to virtual care, health technologies are also enabling healthcare providers to monitor patients with consistency and comprehensiveness that was once unthinkable.
Wearable health devices, for instance, can help healthcare teams track patients’ nutritional intake, sleep and activity patterns, and even medication compliance. They can also provide continuous, real-time data regarding the patient’s vital signs and overall status, including monitoring blood pressure, heart rate, and glucose levels.
This storehouse of individualized patient data supports care teams in their efforts to diagnose incipient conditions and formulate personalized treatment plans.
In addition, these remote monitoring systems can alert care providers, family members, and first responders to potentially life-threatening changes in the patient’s vital signs or when the monitor detects a potential fall or another injury.
Thus, these systems are allowing sick and aged patients to continue to live independently in their homes far longer than might once have been safe or practical.
As transformative as these technologies are and will be, they are by no means a panacea. Any technology is only as good as its functionality for the intended end-user. For this reason, one of the most important considerations of med-tech design and rollout must be the overall functionality of the device or system.
Patients simply will not comply with orders to wear a health monitor, for instance, if the user experience (UX) is bad. Thus, design and testing must account for the diverse needs of end users, those who may not be technologically proficient and who may have mobility impairments, vision and hearing challenges, or cognitive differences.
A functional health device, especially an at-home patient-operated device, must feature a highly intuitive, easy-to-use design and a quick and seamless setup. Functionality testing is central to this process of UX-focused design.
Optimizing Data Analytics
In addition to prioritizing functionality and UX, technologies must be prepared to deal effectively with the copious amounts of data each new technology is bound to generate. To be sure, these data are essential to the rigorous testing to which any health technology is subject.
These data, for example, are critical to the regulatory process, enabling designers and government overseers to test, confirm, and document the technologies’ compliance with relevant safety and security statutes.
That does not mean, however, that all data are necessarily “good” data. It is possible for developers and regulators alike to become mired in a morass of irrelevant testing data, which can both undermine the accurate assessment of the technology’s utility and slow its time to market.
For this reason, the technology testing process must be both highly strategic and highly efficient. Stakeholders must determine exactly what must be known, specifically, about the new technology before it is released to market.
This will inevitably involve multiple layers of testing, including performance testing, security vulnerability assessments, UX testing, and localization testing, to name only a few of the essential considerations at play.
These fundamentals will produce voluminous amounts of essential data, the analysis of which will invariably be quite time-consuming. This reality only affirms and illuminates the necessity of weeding out data, and data collection, which are irrelevant or, at the very least, non-essential.
For this reason, developers and stakeholders should ensure they have an appropriate testing plan and the right tools, such as an effective and efficient test data management system for executing that plan.
While it’s important to avoid extraneous testing and superfluous data, however, it’s also critical to remember that the testing process never really ends, even after the product’s rollout.
Routine security and functionality testing after the product’s launch are necessary to ensure its continued performance after significant use.
In addition, such follow-up testing can help to ensure the technology’s compatibility with other systems and processes following its introduction. These follow-ups are also designed to prevent performance degradation in the aftermath of system updates.
Technology and medicine have long worked hand-in-glove. Today, however, the role of technology in revolutionizing healthcare is more important than perhaps ever before. Nevertheless, to fulfill the promise that tech innovation brings to the future of patient care, rigorous and strategic testing is essential. These processes must center on issues such as functionality and user experience. At the same time, they must avoid extraneous testing and data, as these may lead to inaccurate assessments and delayed rollouts.
[Image Source: Pixabay]