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From patient care technology and equipment to public health research and new alternative treatments for sufferers of chronic pain, the healthcare field has always relied on innovation.

Advancements in healthcare have extended our lifespans, helped us to successfully treat previously untreatable illnesses, and improved overall health across the globe.

In addition to these innovations impacting patients, they are affecting providers as well, giving both access to new technologies that can literally be the difference between life and death. Let’s cover some of these recent innovations and discuss the road ahead in healthcare.

Nurse-Led Innovation

Innovation is essential in our ability to improve the healthcare system, and preventative medicine has seen a serious boon due to technological advancements. Innovative technologies and treatments have allowed healthcare professionals to successfully treat illnesses that were once a death sentence, from cancer to debilitating neurodegenerative diseases.

While innovation has already led to vast improvements in healthcare, there is certainly more than enough room for improvement, and often the innovation that the healthcare field needs most comes from the frontlines. Encouraging sanitary conditions to prevent infections, using phototherapy to treat jaundice in newborns, developing what is now the standard of care for patients suffering from fatal illnesses — nurses have provided innovation throughout history.

Even today, nurses are helping to transform healthcare practices through innovative ideas gleaned from working with the most vulnerable patients. Patients who were previously unable to communicate their needs easily can now do so thanks to the efforts of nurses like Rebecca Koszalinski, who see firsthand what patients need most and work to develop inventive solutions.

Nurses are often instrumental in life-saving healthcare innovations due to their proximity to and intimate knowledge of the most pressing issues that patients and hospitals face. For example, when Jill Byrne, a nurse at the Cleveland Clinic, noticed that surgical staff were becoming too hot under surgical lamps, she developed a lightweight vest that could hold ice packs to keep them cool. Another nurse invented the crash cart when she saw how she and her fellow nurses were constantly scrambling for necessary equipment to treat patients in crisis.

For each challenge that presents itself in the day-to-day operations of healthcare facilities, innovative nurses are there to formulate a practical solution. These innovations also help hospitals by reducing instances of patient readmission, which saves money and lives.

Public Health Research

Public health research has also made the lives of both providers and patients infinitely better through innovation. Massive pools of sensitive healthcare data are being constantly generated from various sources, and this data has come to dominate the modern healthcare industry. Public health researchers are able to use this data to develop innovative solutions to issues that both patients and healthcare providers face on a daily basis.

Public health researchers can use machine learning models, artificial intelligence, and even apply blockchain technology to innovate in the world of healthcare. Cancer screening, record keeping, and inefficiencies and errors that lead to deaths in hospitals can all be addressed by using the tools available to parse through all of the available data. The goal for public health researchers is to create knowledge and expand access to the public, and they are using innovative technologies to do so.

Only 10% of the world expenditure on health research and development is spent on health conditions that represent 90% of the global disease burden, making innovation in global public health research of the utmost importance. In order to close this gap of coverage, public health researchers need more funds to increase their ability to create solutions to the world’s problems. Innovation in public health research has helped the world at large tremendously, but it should become a priority in the coming years.

Solving the Unsolvable

Healthcare innovations tend to catch the public’s imagination, and recently there has been good reason for this public interest. In recent years we have seen CRISPR genome editing come to fruition, made huge leaps towards synthesized antibiotics, developed needle-free drug injection and male birth control, and have even made steps towards improving brain function and capacity, all of which are remarkable healthcare innovations in their own right. Experts are on the cusp of developing a vaccine for cancer, understanding Alzheimer’s, and being able to cure disease at a genetic level.

While most of these innovations are far off from being publicly available, there have been major healthcare advancements in the last few years that are widely accessible to patients in need. While those suffering from chronic pain in the past either had to rely on dangerous opioids or constant physical and psychological treatment to manage their pain, these patients are now able to effectively use alternative treatments. CBD, an active chemical in marijuana, is a common solution to manage chronic pain. It sidesteps many of the legal and moral implications of using marijuana as a treatment option for those suffering from chronic pain, as it does not have the deleterious effects of THC.

These advancements highlight one of the main issues facing radical healthcare innovations: Many politicians and public figures argue that the cost of them outweigh the benefits, both on a fiscal and moral level. However, in the court of public opinion, potentially life-saving medical innovations are almost always welcomed with open arms.

Innovations in healthcare will never stop, as they are the beating heart of the healthcare field. Both patients and providers are always looking to the future in the hopes that what was once incurable become curable — that advancements will lead to a healthier, happier world in the future. This is not a pipe-dream; it’s an inevitable reality if we continue to embrace and encourage healthcare innovation.

About the author

Noah Rue is a writer, a digital nomad, an ESL teacher, and an all around good dude, if he doesn’t say so himself.