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Medicine in the Future

Medical technology is any technology used to save lives or to lessen or stop the pain from illnesses and diseases. Medical technology helps doctors to find out why a person is sick and helps patients get well. An MRI scanner is a type of medical technology. It takes pictures of tissues inside the body - and even the brain! A heart monitor is another type of medical technology. It keeps track of a person's heartbeat by counting the number of beats the heart makes. Medical technology will be around for a long time because it can help healthcare workers treat patients in new and better ways.

Two kinds of medical technology that may help medicine in the future are voice-based technology and virtual reality.

Voice-based technology looks at emotion and characteristics (a special quality or appearance that makes something different from others) in patients’ voices (called vocal biomarkers) to help find diseases and other health problems. A company in Israel invented a machine to understand human emotions by looking at raw voice intonations (the way a person’s voice rises and falls when speaking) as people speak. The idea came from looking at how babies – who do not understand a single word – are able to figure out exactly what their caretakers feel toward them. The computer software the scientists used has helped find a type of heart problem in patients called coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease happens when a person’s arteries get clogged by fat and other fatty substances called plaque. This important discovery will help doctors take better care of patients and will help them have more complete and correct information about the patient’s health.

Virtual reality is a type of technology that gives healthcare workers a simulated environment. Simulated is an imitation or copy of something - a pretend environment. Virtual reality can be used to try different ways of doing something or to teach someone how to do something. A doctor could use virtual reality to learn how to do a noninvasive surgery (a type of surgery that does not have the doctor cut into the body or take any tissue out of the body). The doctor would be able to see three-dimensional (3-D) objects without being able to touch the object (like watching a 3-D movie).

These are only two of the many ways technology may help doctors take better care of patients.

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