Developments in technology are continuing to support advances in the health and social care sector, so it’s essential that future employees are prepared for the changes yet to come. Many areas of the sector are already using new technology, with developments being made daily. In healthcare, technology is being used in operating theatres to enhance the performance of doctors and surgeons.. Similarly, in social care there are examples of support robots that can comfort distressed children or support adults in their own homes.
How has this changed over time?
During my working life as a nurse I made very little use of computers. Electronic thermometers and blood pressure machines were just being introduced. No more shaking of mercury thermometers and taking blood pressure manually! All patient care plans were completed by hand and must have been a nightmare to store. In contrast, notes these days can be accessed at the touch of a button, allowing nurses and doctors to easily share information about a patient's care.
Even in the past 20 years, major advances have been made in imaging technology such as MRI and CAT scans. In an area where radiologists originally needed to be able to carry out x-rays, they now need to be skilled in other types of scanning and the ability to recognise changes in those scans. These scans can be shared instantly with other professionals and even with patients, making care more transparent and accessible for all.
Most recently the NHS has teamed up with Amazon Echo to provide health support to users of the device. This is a great example of how technology can improve healthcare - whereas before, people might have phoned their GP or 111 for information, they can now ‘Ask Alexa’. This should minimise the amount of misinformation around health as well as saving professionals time and perhaps even reducing appointments - a great example of how technology will improve health care.
Consequently, nurses now need to be skilled in different areas and must be able to use computer technology. Methods of communication have changed from using pagers to being issued with mobile phones that they can use to order drugs or transport for patients. Even the equipment that nurses use can now contain GPS trackers to ensure it doesn’t get lost. For the patient, however, there are concerns that they will become more isolated due to less face-to-face interaction between patients and nurses. If the technology being used becomes so complicated, will it prevent healthcare workers from using it?
The future of the sector
Technology is fast-moving and professionals will have to think about the ethical issues that come with these developments. The storage of patient data is a pressing concern. People are increasingly worried about what personal data is stored, how it might be used and whether it is shared with others.
There are many advances in healthcare technology but developments in mental health seem much slower. Mental health apps and online support networks are growing, showing that technology is truly ingrained in today’s healthcare.
Many of the jobs that students completing their BTEC will go on to do don’t even necessarily exist at this point. This makes for exciting times: health and social care professionals in the future are going to need to know more about the advances in technology and keep up to date with changes in the sector. Their jobs will be varied and highly skilled. A BTEC in Health and Social Care can help to prepare students for this evolving landscape, with many units being influenced by the use of technology. From health campaigns to new advances in anatomy and physiology - the future is here!