By Melissa Wirkus Hagstrom, contributor Jun 07, 2021
It’s an exciting time to be in medicine. Just as a new approach
to vaccines is helping us see some light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel,
there are a number of medical innovations that are impacting healthcare as we
From novel therapies with the potential to cure inherited diseases
to a new, hybrid patient care model, Staff Care is putting a spotlight on medical technology
that is creating some radical changes for physicians and other clinicians in
the months and years ahead.
Three key medical
innovations affecting clinicians
1. Breakthrough gene therapy for hemoglobinopathies
year, the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic publishes their own list of the top 10 medical innovations. The No. 1 spot for 2021 was
awarded to an up-and-coming gene therapy for genetic blood disorders known as
hemoglobinopathies—the most common of which are sickle cell disease and
estimated that around 100,000 people in the United States live with sickle cell
disease, according to Rabi Hanna, MD, a physician and researcher in the
pediatric hematology/oncology and blood and marrow transplantation departments
at The Cleveland Clinic. He explained that the disease disproportionately
affects the African American community, with 1 in 8 being born with a sickle
average life expectancy for an African American with sickle cell is 42 to 43
years old -- and that's half of the U.S. life expectancy overall,” Hanna said.
"In addition to that, many patients have severe pain crises and they can
develop strokes, heart failure and kidney failure."
around this experimental gene therapy process is that it has the potential to
cure sickle cell disease, and several other blood disorders, by altering the
gene cells. "It does not add any gene or disturb the genome itself of the
human cells. It rather -- using technology of CRISPR -- corrects and edits the
genes,” he added.
therapies can be revolutionary by giving patients their lives back by curing
them potentially from the disease," Hanna said. "We know how much
these patients are suffering, and to imagine then that they are now being cured
instead of just trying to manage the disease, it gives them the opportunity to
live their potential. That really is the ultimate goal. This is a therapy that
I hope will be accessible to a lot of people."
2. A hybrid care model with increased
use of telemedicine
telemedicine has been around for years, the global pandemic launched virtual
healthcare to center stage. Telemedicine has allowed millions of patients to
receive care from the comfort and safety of their homes, which has been
critical during the past year. Barriers affecting payments and access to care
that were in place at the beginning of 2020 were temporarily removed by state
and federal mandates, allowing patients to connect with their providers via
phone, messaging and video conference.
percentage of physicians using telemedicine to see patients spiked from 22
percent in 2019 to 80 percent in 2020, according to Amwell's 2020 Physician and Consumer
Meanwhile, consumer usage of virtual visits climbed from 8 percent in 2019 to
22 percent in 2020. The survey results also showed that physicians and
consumers expect to use telehealth more often following COVID-19 than they did
before the pandemic, and the increased adoption is largely driven by a shift to
scheduled visits across all specialties. Prior to COVID-19, the majority of
visits were for on-demand urgent care.
trends underscored by this survey indicate that indeed providers and consumers
alike want to use telehealth for primary care, chronic care management, and
specialty care of all kinds. This shift suggests the beginning of a rapid
transition to a hybrid care model that combines both virtual and physical care
settings,” said Ido Schoenberg, Amwell’s chairman and co-CEO. “Furthermore,
this survey reinforces the staying power of telehealth post-pandemic and calls
upon the broader healthcare ecosystem to cement and sustain the hybrid
3. Robotic cleaning technologies and
Ensuring a hospital is clean and sanitary has never been more
important, as the COVID pandemic has put an exclamation point on the need to
vigilantly protect patients and staff. Ultraviolet disinfection robots are
being leveraged across the country as a way for hospitals to ensure harmful
pathogens and viruses are destroyed while also eliminating some of the cleaning
burden that is placed on staff members.
A February 2021 research paper featured in Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection
Control discussed the potential, limitations and usage for sanitizing
robots, and stressed the importance of this technology complementing routine
(manual) cleaning—not replacing it.
“Robots may be defined as machines programmed by humans to perform tasks and
navigate themselves through space and time on their own. The most widely
applied technology focuses on surface disinfection by applying ultraviolet
(UV)-C radiation. All types of UV-disinfection robots offer a non-touch
technology, delivering disinfection by irradiation of effective intensity to
kill microorganisms, but with no mechanical removal of dirt or biological
material, which contain bacteria and viruses,” according to the study authors.
to use the latest medical technology
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