On September 12, 1958, Jack Kilby, a soft-spoken Texas Instrument engineer, invented the microchip. This far-reaching development would propel the era of computing in the 1970s. The computer age firmly established the role of information communications technology is revolutionizing many industries, including healthcare. The rise in digital infrastructure has transformed and paved the way for innovations in the landscape of health maintenance, diagnostic know-how, and preventive medicine. To continue on this route of healthcare breakthroughs, the sustainability of using digital systems is necessary. Here are some reasons why:
Man is a total consumer. According to Nature Conservancy, the average amount of greenhouse gases per person is about four tons a year. We need to bring it down to two tons for each individual to prevent a 2℃ rise in temperature by 2050. And that year is just one generation away from where we are. More effective efforts to conserve the environment need to be expended for our descendants in the mid-21st century and beyond. Sustainability in digital health will help see to it that that much-coveted goal is attainable. The electronic data highway has made possible paperless transmission of information with innumerable impacts on gas consumption, the cutting of trees, the use of non-renewable coal energy, etc. The need for traditional resources previously thought of as mandatory to fuel the processes needed to produce, store, and distribute facts and figures to humanity has been greatly diminished. Digital sustainability in healthcare makes the green dream doable.
Green hats for good guys
When healthcare, which is indispensable to our very existence, rides the digital wave, it sends out ripples that affect every sector of society. And this includes the business world. A company is only as healthy as its workforce. Without a sustainably efficient delivery system of healthcare, companies can jeopardize the welfare of their employees and may put their own existence at risk as well. Top executives need to ensure corporate sustainability by revamping their benefits packages to incorporate HMOs that can deliver efficiently. Utilizing digital infrastructure will ensure that this happens. Going digitally sustainable will also help transform big corporations’ default cold for-profit-only image into a more approachable and compassionate. Any company that consistently communicates a positively “green” identity and delivers the goods will never be in scarcity of top talent to join its ranks.
Easier, faster access to information
All of us aim for a higher quality of life. But how can you do so when it takes the filling out of multiple head-scratcher forms and counting the hours until the exhausted medical records keeper resurfaces from the mountains of moldy paper to find out what medicine you had an allergic reaction to a decade ago. There will be none of that in the sustainable digital age. Because all information is filed away in an assortment of byte ranges, access to information is user-friendly and swift. Everything will be just a passcode or two away. The meteoric speed at which data travels through fiber optic cables has also dissolved geographic limitations. No one could have imagined the miracle of remote surgery (or telesurgery), which allows doctors to operate on their patients even when they are miles apart. Digitalization has made possible a kind of space and time travel by which we can have access to all the knowledge the world has to offer from the comforts of our cozy homes or remote workspaces in a matter of seconds.
Enabling of innovation
While the ease of acquisition, processing, and transmission of medical data is mind-boggling, there are more possibilities than our tradition-shackled brains can imagine. The sustainability of healthcare digitalization has led to some outstanding innovations in the past decade. We are familiar with the efficiency of digital blood banks that have calmed many a frantic soul searching for that hard-to-find blood type for a loved one in dire need. It is also nothing new to learn of the latest developments made on stem cell research as a possible cure for a range of diseases, also made possible by the efficient procurement and delivery of information via the digital highway. But have you ever heard of drones being used to deliver medical supplies and devices? How about the portable ultrasound device developed by Jonathan Rothberg, a genetics researcher from Yale? The ingenious gadget is planted with a chip and is connected to an iPhone app to gain access to medical imaging technology.
Another exciting invention with potentially profound benefits to our species is the cancer-diagnosing AI or artificial intelligence for timely and accurate cancer detection in its early stages. Again, the prospects for healthcare, medicine, and research are tremendously breathtaking.
Unity, even in diversity
It is not just the divides of time and space that digital sustainability in health care can blur. There is also that hard-to-scale wall of cultural differences that can lead to prejudices if not properly understood and appreciated. With the disastrous calamities and aggressive viruses having the potential of decimating populations time and time again, countries have realized that no sovereignty can rely on its capabilities and resources alone. Digitalization and globalization have made world leaders realize that interdependence is no longer a mere option but a necessity. Cooperation is a must for one to leverage the strengths of its allies in the face of ever-increasing threats from both visible and unseen foes. Cooperation is made more frequent, more intensive, and even more pleasurable with the breeze of sharing and even co-creating information on the latest healthcare technology. Our much-enhanced connectedness has allowed us to appreciate that we are more alike than different from each other, that we have the same desires and fears. Deeper engagement with one another will enable the free flow of ideas and the shattering of long-held biases, resulting in a kinder and more understanding view of each other as fellow global citizens. Digital sustainability in healthcare helps us see that we need to take care of each other if we all desire to see the dawn of the next millennia.
|Katreena is a scientist and a life hack specialist. She’s authored scientific journals on biotechnology and molecular biology. To take a break from scientific journals, she puts her mind into writing about lifestyle, health, and sustainability. She strongly believes that kindness makes the world go round.|