Medical technology covers the wide range of tools now being used to diagnose, treat or generally manage health. This may include medical equipment, advanced surgical or medical procedures, electronic records and medical-related software. Many of these advances have improved quality of life and helped lengthen life spans. However, medical technology can also present problems for the patient. Knowing the risks can help patients become more knowledgeable consumers for their health and overall well-being.
Negative effects of medical technology on patients include impersonal care, negative health effects, increased costs, the possibility of overuse and an invasion of privacy.
Impersonal or Minimized Care
Technology is only as good as the person who programs it and the medical personnel who use it. A health care provider who relies too heavily on technology may spend too little time getting to know the patient as an individual, and too much time interacting with the equipment. For example, there is a danger that a doctor may miss a symptom that doesn't fall into the black and white parameters of an electronic medical record.
Negative Health Effects
Many technological procedures are life saving, but each has its own risk for the patient. For example, surgical procedures, radiation therapy or chemotherapy can offer benefits but could lead to negative effects. This has long been true with any medical procedure since even simple aspirin can be used inappropriately; however, technology should always be evaluated for risk versus reward.
Increased Patient Costs
New technological advances can lead to higher patient costs due to the research and marketing related to bringing it to market as well as profit for the creator and manufacturer. As technology advances, usually so does the cost, especially if it offers patients a solution that was not previously available to them. While this may be a blessing for conditions that are newly treatable or chronic, the new technology will result in additional and long-term costs.
Much of medical technology is sold via manufacturers' sales representatives whose job is to sell the product. They may appropriately make the health care provider aware of a new option. But they may also use an incentive that encourages a medical provider to use the technology or new product, whether or not it is in the best interest of that specific patient.
Invasion of Privacy
New computerized technology, such as Electronic Medical Records (EMR) stores and manages patient information to share with the patient and all health care providers. The medical history can include test results, medications, billing information and much more. It's a convenience but also offers the potential for misuse, resulting in a loss of personal data and patient privacy.