As computers have become mainstream appliances, they have found their way into virtually all aspects of human endeavors and medicine is no exception. Computers help physicians and medical researchers discover, test and apply medical techniques in virtually every hospital in the world. Furthermore, computer technology provides an infrastructure to allow for medical ideas and knowledge to be filed and shared globally with other medical professionals.
X-rays and CT scans
X-rays and CT scans use radiation to produce images of a patient's internal structure to search for abnormalities. X-rays allow for viewing of the internal structure of the patient from one perspective. CT scanning on the other hand uses computer technology to take several X-ray images that are two-dimensional cross-sections and turn them into a multidimensional picture that doctors use to make a diagnosis. These single X-rays are combined using computer programs that precisely reconstruct the internal structure of the patient.
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Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Magnetic Resonance Imagining, more commonly known as MRI, is the process of using powerful magnetic fields to map the patient's internal structure and activity. According to Radiologyinfo.org, MRI is used to produce detailed images of soft tissue in the body without using radiation. The bio-electrical activity in the body is detected by the MRI machine and fed to a computer that interprets the structure of the area being scanned and presents a three-dimensional presentation of electrical activity in the region. This allows doctors to search for physical and operational defects in patients without invasive surgery.
Spectroscopy is the process of irradiating a substance, such as biopsy tissue or suspected dangerous substances, and examining the reflected or transmitted radiation patterns. A number of different spectroscopy methods have been developed to measure different energy characteristics. All substances absorb and reflect only specific wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. The reflected or transmitted radiation is analyzed by a computer that determines which wavelengths are present or missing. This pattern, called a spectrum, is then compared to a database of known substances to find a match. This allows doctors to quickly determine if a poisonous substance is involved and decide appropriate treatment actions.
Patients admitted to a hospital are connected to machines that use vital statistics monitoring software to record blood pressure, pulse, and oxygen levels. These computers monitor a patient and are programmed to notify the staff in the event any of these statistics move outside of acceptable ranges.
Computerized robotics allow doctors to perform surgery on patients without even being in the same room. These computer-controlled surgeries allow doctors to save the lives of patients many miles away which may not have been possible otherwise. Video networking and real-time vital statistics monitoring allow for safe, precise surgeries that are observed by on-staff doctors or students.
Secure Data Storage
Prior to the use of computers, sensitive patient data was kept in filing cabinets that were bulky and easily broken into. Today, computer database technology allows medical professionals to maintain thorough patient files secured with encryption routines and even stored off site for extra security and backup capabilities.
Doctors and researchers commonly use personal computers for real-time consults and second opinions. This allows for the diagnosis procedure to take less time, which can equate to increased lab results or a life-saving treatment. Furthermore, the use of small computing devices, such as PDAs and smart phones, allow doctors to perform their work in less technologically advanced areas that do not have landline Internet connects.
Medicine encompasses a vast field of knowledge that is expanding every day. Computer databases allow doctors to store diagnostic information and make that information searchable. This allows medical information from previous cases and peer-reviewed journals to be instantly available to medical professionals at any time and place.
Currently, distributed computing platforms are used to run medical simulations in search of cures to diseases such as cancer, AIDS, and Alzheimer's disease. This computerized software lets millions of computers join together in a manner that exponentially increases the speed at which potential cures may be found.
Medical Practice Software
Computer software is used to track and project virtually all aspects of a medical practice. Patient files, profit and loss statements, and billing and insurance forms are all handled using computer software that streamlines the office work of a medical practice and allows doctors more time to spend with their patients.