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January 27, 2020

Luigi Franciosi Explains How Technology Has Changed the Healthcare Industry

Over the past few decades, technology has advanced tremendously and has integrated seamlessly with almost every field, including healthcare. From simply being able to book appointments online, to telemedicine, technology has changed the entire landscape of healthcare in the past few years and continues to do so rapidly on a day-to-day basis. Dr. Luigi Franciosi, an Adjunct Professor of Pharmacology at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada has over twenty years of experience in the healthcare industry, and has seen the firsthand the changes in the industry. Having completed his Masters and Doctorate degrees, he furthered his education in business in the UK at University of Warwick (News - Alert) and has recently started his own consultancy in the pharmaceutical industry. 

Electronic Health Records

One of the largest ways that technology has changed the healthcare industry is through the use of Electronic Health or Medical Records (EHRs/EMRs). This form of technology has allowed hospitals and clinics to store medical information electronically, either stored locally or in the cloud, as opposed to paper records. This has vastly changed the industry, as physicians and other healthcare professionals are now able to more efficiently bring up patient data when needed. Luigi Franciosi explains that this advancement has allowed for greater patient care and accuracy as there is increased communication between those involved in a patients’ health. Previously, patients may misunderstand certain aspects of their diagnosis or treatment plans, and convey incorrect information to a specialist, or other physician. With electronic records, a patient’s history, medications, treatment plans, and even imaging can be easily forwarded to others involved. EHRs have also greatly helped with the ongoing opioid crisis, as many provinces and states have centralized systems from where physicians can access patient records and see if a patient has drug-seeking behaviours, or recent visits to other clinics seeking similar drugs.

Better Research 

Working in the pharmaceutical industry, Luigi Franciosi has seen how technological advances have allowed for better and broader research and experimentation of drugs and treatments. Rather than taking years of research, drugs can be researched and experimented in just months, and brought to trial phases much quicker than ever before. Artificial Intelligence has also greatly helped in organizing, charting, and performing many tedious tasks that would take up hours of a researcher’s time. With the prospect of in-silico trials in the future, pharmaceutical trials will be changed forever says Luigi Franciosi. He explains that this is a form of trial, where rather than testing in live human subjects or even cells, technology can be used to test on millions of virtual patients at one time, reducing time, cost, and harm all at the same time.

CRISPR and Gene Sequencing

In 2004, the Human Genome Project published an incomplete version of the human genome. Over the past 15 years, more research has gone into sequencing, and it is estimated that only less than 10% of the human genome has yet to be sequenced. With technology, this has become easier and faster, and databases have been set up to help with both diagnosis and treatment of human diseases. Whole genome sequencing, although fairly expensive, has become a popular option in hospitals and clinics across the globe to pinpoint genetic defects leading to defects and diseases in newborns. The technology has allowed healthcare to move forward in finding researching new disorders that were previously unknown or had very little information about. CRISPR, Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, is a new treatment modality that uses the DNA found in bacteria to help alter the genetic coding of humans to help treat diseases, with the first patient in July 2019 being tested to treat sickle cell disease in Tennessee, USA. With this new advent of technology, Luigi Franciosi foresees many diseases that were previously untreatable, potentially having great clinical outcomes in the upcoming years.

Telemedicine, Apps, and Wearables

Technology has allowed for healthcare to be moved out of its traditional locations of the hospital and doctors’ clinics, bringing it closer to patients, many times being available within their own homes. Telemedicine, an evolving field in medicine, allows patients to communicate and interact with healthcare providers from remote areas, or for those that may be mobility impaired, from an area that is easily accessible, or even from home. It allows healthcare teams to assess and provide guidance and management over video or telephone conference to patients and their caretakers. This has allowed for significant improvement in health access to hundreds of thousands of patients nationwide. Apps and wearables have also integrated seamlessly into healthcare, allowing patients to take more control of their health and become more involved. Mainstream devices such as the Apple (News - Alert) Watch, allow for electrocardiogram readings, helping patients monitor their hearts electrical activity from home, and devices such as Fitbits have helped in increasing fitness levels in many patients, helping reduce cardiovascular disease.

Luigi Franciosi concludes that the future of healthcare is intertwined with advancements in technology and he is excited for the revolutionary techniques and treatments that are discovered in the upcoming years with the help of technology.

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