Healthcare is one of the most important areas where technology is having an influence. Sure, new inventions are helping workplaces become more productive and allowing people to stay in touch, but when it comes to improving quality of life (or even saving one) perhaps it is in medical science where technology is most important.
It is also something that healthcare facilities are investing in, helping to provide more sophisticated treatment choices for those with private health cover.
Recently, some exciting movements have been made in healthcare technologies that make for interesting reading. Here's how medicine has moved forwards in recent months.
1) X-ray images and IBM's supercomputer
In August, US multinational IBM announced its acquisition of Merge Healthcare – experts in medical imaging. Combining IBM's Watson supercomputer with Merge's data and images, the US$1 billion ($1.36 billion) takeover is considered a way to let the Watson computer "see".
An August 7 report by Forbes quoted John Kelly, IBM's senior vice president, research and solutions portfolio, as he registered his excitement for the collaboration.
"Watson has the ability in medical imaging to understand whether it is looking at an X-ray, or a CAT scan versus an MRI. It has the ability to know it's looking at a brain scan versus a heart scan," he began.
"We are now absolutely convinced that Watson is capable of doing these things. What we lacked was the access to clients, and the images. What Merge brings us is that access and that capacity."
Ultimately, the intention is to improve the accuracy and speed of the analysis of medical records, such as X-rays, giving doctors and nurses more time for their other tasks.
While this is so far a development taking place in the United States, IBM's global standing will no doubt see it reach foreign shores should the trials prove successful.
2) 3D implants surge ahead
"Australia is becoming the global headquarter of a new medical revolution," Australia Business Review stated this month.
The publication was talking about a recent partnership between 3-D-printed orthopaedic implant provider 4WEB Medical and Australia's LifeHealthcare. The two combined recently in an Australian first, as a 32-year-old Melbourne man was provided with a new 3-D-printed jawbone joint.
The man suffered a knock early in life, and his left condyle joint (where the jaw connects to the skull) never properly healed. Doctors and surgeons took the opportunity to perform a procedure that had previously proved successful in the Netherlands, but had never before been attempted Down Under.
Implants designed and printed in this way can be hyper-specific to a patient's body and help doctors perform life-threatening surgeries, as well as reconstructive ones.
3) Software startup finds funding
It's not all tangible technologies that are helping to improve healthcare; much work goes on behind the scenes in hospitals that is integral to the standard of care delivered to the population.
Created by doctor Ben Hurst, HotDoc is a piece of software programmed to provide online appointment booking and health management resources. Designed to speed up how patients access healthcare, and how medical professionals access their records, the software is one example of how the healthcare industry is developing with digital technology.
AirTree Ventures certainly appreciated the program, and added the company to its books with a $2.2 million backing this month.
Financial Review reported on the news on August 6, with Dr Hurst believing the partnership will now help the startup spread its wings.
"Both of my parents were doctors, and I realised I could have more impact for health by helping to fix the system. We're not trying to disrupt the medical industry; we're trying to make it better and easier for everyone," he explained.
"We're working with about 10 per cent Australia's doctors now, and targeting local, private practises to keep growing."
Finding health insurance
It's exciting innovations like these that are helping people see the value in health insurance – particularly in the face of rising premiums. With many of the procedures that use the next generation of technological innovations proving expensive, health cover helps to even the odds.
If you have any questions about health insurance in Australia, HICA's experts are available to call on 1300 44 22 01 for free and impartial advice.