Medical Innovations: 3 Key Medical Disruptors in 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 know it. 

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  

Every 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 thalassemia. 

It's 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 cell trait.

"The 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." 

The excitement 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.

"These 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

Although 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.

The 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 Survey. 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. 

“The 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 healthcare model.” 

3. Robotic cleaning technologies and sanitary practices

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.

Your chance to use the latest medical technology

As a locum tenens physician or advanced practitioner, you can choose to work in facilities that use cutting-edge medical technology while learning best practices on every assignment. Each locum tenens job is an opportunity to help grow your career and expand your clinical skill set. 

Want to know more? Staff Care has a talented team of recruiters who will listen to your needs and help find the right part-time or full-time opportunities.

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