The medical needs of the human race have always been big motivators of technological advancement. Early civilisations created everything from trepanning hammers for more efficient skull cracking, to crude prosthesis, while more recent history has seen the advent of x-ray, MRI and scanners of every kind.
While looking back and tracing the path of innovation is easy, predicting the future advancements is much harder. No one saw the iPhone being such a powerful catalyst for change, Bill Gates himself predicted a future where only a select few people owned or used computers regularly, and the first automobiles were dismissed as a fad that couldn’t compete with the reliability of horses.
Technology advances exponentially, with each innovation building upon the previous knowledge. Inventor, scientist and futurist, Ray Kurzweil, refers to this as The Law of Accelerating Returns. As an advancement pushes the human race beyond a barrier previously considered impenetrable, the effects resonate across different areas (such as medical and military, business and leisure, etc…). For example, LED lights, used in car brake lights, turn indicators, televisions and more, were developed by NASA during experiments related to food production in space. Similarly, the infrared thermometer your doctor puts in your ear uses technology originally developed as a way of measuring the temperature of stars.
Using Kurzweil’s historical trends of exponential growth, it is predicted that in just five years technology will be 32 times more advanced. Push that out to 10 years and it’s 1000 times, in 20 years that becomes 1,000,000. In 30 years? A billion times. Forty? A trillion times. It sounds fantastical, but back in 1978 the things we take for granted today were all in their infancy. Cellular technology was embryonic, Space Invaders was the cutting edge of video game innovation and the bulletin board services (BBS) were the first tentative steps towards the all-consuming internet we know today. While it’s hard to quantify the difference between today’s tech and its ancestors, it isn’t much of a stretch to posit that today’s 4G networks, the latest PlayStation and Xbox models, and the internet, are all a trillion times more advanced than their 1978 iterations.
So, what does this mean for the healthcare industry? If the proliferation of health apps and wearable devices is anything to go by, tracking one’s health will continue to become something that more individuals do for themselves. People used to take symptoms to the doctor for an assessment, however smartphones and websites will become even more comprehensive and provide the layperson with more information than ever before. This will present further challenges for the professions within the healthcare industry, which will mean that regardless of the technological wonders that await us five, 10, 20, 30 or 40 years from now, learning how to treat a more informed public will require more than slick gadgets, and the need for qualified, passionate people will be as great as it has ever been.
To find out more about the present and future of healthcare, register today for the ACS Seminar in Melbourne. Hosted by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, it’s your chance to find out where the industry is headed and what your students will need for their health career journey.