Here’s a mind bender: You are shockingly healthy even when you’re sick. Today’s minor illness was yesterday’s fatal disease. We have seen this progression within our lifetime. When HIV entered the picture, we had no idea what it was or how to treat it. First, there was optimism that we could deal with it quickly. But reality set in and it was clear how hopelessly fatal the disease was. Now, people with AIDS can live out full and normal lives. This only took one and a half generations.
Covid is yet another killer that took the world by storm. We went from sheltering in place to being on the brink of a wildly effective vaccine inside of a year. That is unprecedented. Most of us have the confidence that when we are sick, we will get better after a few visits to the doctor and the pharmacy. So even when we are in the throws of illness, we are remarkably healthy.
It is not magic, nor is it good genes. We are not better humans than the cave dwellers. What we have that they didn’t is superior technology. That technological advantage has allowed us to shrug off things that brought previous generations to its knees. Here are a few of those technologies worth celebrating:
We have the ability to detect and measure cell characteristics such as size, number, and other chemical factors via the aid of advanced technologies such as the cell sorter. One of the leading manufacturers describes the technology behind their products in the following way:
Our sorter uses an on-chip piezoacoustic actuator that gently directs cells into collection channels. Our unique system allows cell analysis (cell size and cell type characterization) and sorting to take place within a disposable microfluidic chip. This eliminates sample-to-sample contamination and biohazard aerosols. An embedded cell sorting verification system gives instant feedback of sorting accuracy.
What’s more, the sorters have been reduced in size and cost so that even small labs can afford the most advanced hardware and software available in their efforts to find cures and save lives. It opens up an entirely new world of possibilities. And it is just a peak behind the curtain of the technology that can humble the worst of diseases.
Medical Information Technology
Let’s get this out of the way up front, medical IT has taken a beating over the last few years. It has been the biggest target of ransomware attacks by far. Were it not for these highly popularized breaches, the average person wouldn’t even know about ransomware. Now, it is just a part of the modern-day, computing vernacular.
That said, medical IT saves lives. Having patient information and doctor’s orders digitally almost eliminates the possibility of error. It speeds up treatment by an order of magnitude. And it dramatically improves data storage and archives.
Digital patient data is also much more portable. Have you ever had to request all of your medical records and physically transfer them to another doctor’s office? You often have to pay for the privilege. And you have to wait for the office to compile the documents. Once you get them, they are vulnerable to damage and loss. By contrast, patient information can be transferred from computer to computer in seconds with no loss. This is just one of the ways we are extending life and increasing health.
Elevated Consumer Technology
The smartphone or iPad is not med tech by any stretch of the imagination. But perhaps we need to stretch our imaginations further than we first thought. Among the most innovative technologies is a portable ultrasound about the size of a large remote control that attaches to a smartphone or tablet. This will not replace full-size ultrasound machines. But it will make the technology available to parts of the world that don’t have ultrasound technology. A similar thing happened a few years back with relation to eye examinations using smartphones. In developing parts of the world, consumer tech in conjunction with brilliant engineers becomes life-saving med tech.
There are good reasons we are living a lot longer. And it is not because we eat better and exercise more. It is because we live in the most technologically advanced time in the history of the world. The good news is things will only get better from here.