Friday, June 12, 2009

Computer Science Sets the Pace for Advancements in the Area of Medicine

It is a fact that computers have caused many changes in every aspect of our lives. In the areas of Life Science and the Health Care industry the utilization of computer applications has created a major impact on the way the work is performed in labs, clinics and hospitals all over the country. Powerful computer applications have played important roles in ongoing research projects such as Genome and Stem Cell. These projects may lead to treatments or even cure of certain health conditions which have challenged the scientific community for years.

Thanks also to computer sciences many innovations in the Health Care Industry have helped to reduce operational costs and increased efficiency on different fronts. [1] The use of computer applications has definitely changed the way professionals look at human biology and health care over the years.

The utilization of software applications has made it possible for scientists to develop new approaches in order to target diseases in a much more aggressive manner. The contribution of computers is vital and it extends from the work performed by technicians at the lab bench, all the way to the medical clinics and emergency rooms. With the use of applications, professionals have been able to identify and address issues in a way that had not been possible decades ago. One effect of all the technological growth in recent years is that life expectancy has increased significantly as people have managed to live longer than ever before.
A great accomplishment in Life Sciences in recent years, which would not have been possible without the use of computers, is the genome project. The benefits that mankind stands to gain as a result of that study are immeasurable. The Human Genome Project’s goal is to elucidate the information that makes up the genetic blueprint of human beings. It consists of sequencing the chemical bases of DNA and subsequently storing that information in a database for future scientific references. The information from this database will be used over time by the scientific community to target diseases which have puzzled scientific minds for decades. In order to compile the genome database, powerful software applications have been used to perform complex mathematical operations in various phases of the process. [2]

Stem Cell Research is still in its preliminary stages. Despite all of the controversies raised over the subject, the scientific community strongly believes that stem cell therapy has great potential to revolutionize the way human diseases are treated in the future. Medical researchers are excited about the prospect of using technologies derived from stem cell research to treat diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and a number of other debilitating illnesses. [3] At this time, there are a number of projects in progress and some cell therapy already exists despite the widespread uncertainty about the social and ethical challenges. Companies like StemSoft Software Inc. have an important role behind the scenes as it provides software solutions and technical support to organizations and physicians in order to meet the clinical and research high standards. [5]

The Stem Cell Studies would be virtually impossible if it was not for the use of computers. According to Mike Wininger, a graduate student from Rutgers University who had been involved in Graduate studies in Asia, “Merging statistical pattern recognition and computer vision to cell imaging, I am addressing the problem of cell sorting with novel quantitative methods. By processing hundreds of cell images and extracting salient parameters of cell size, morphology and structure, I seek to rigorously and objectively determine a stem cell's status…” [4].

I have been working with biopharmaceutical research and development activities for the past sixteen years. The scope of my work encompasses the use of microorganisms as hosts to produce certain proteins which will be used in vaccine formulation. I participate in the preliminary stage of the process where the final product will eventually end up being injected into humans. In order to guarantee the success of the whole operation, people in my group have to work in synergy with other groups and we all rely heavily on computers to make our product. Most of the instruments I use in the lab have a built in computer which perform a specific task during the process. Some examples of such instruments are spectrophotometers, pH and conductivity meters, centrifuges and biochemistry analyzers. Each instrument will help me monitor the culture and build a profile of the cell growth.

The Health Care Industry has also benefited in many ways due to computer availability. Electronic medical record systems allow medical practices to manage all the information collected for their patients electronically, therefore protecting the safety of the information and improving the efficiency of medical practice. [1] [2] Implementation of electronic medical records has contributed to the reduction of organization operational expenses by eliminating in-house and off-site storage costs, as it drastically reduced the amount of paperwork generated for patients. It cut down the cost of buying paper for keeping records and paper for making copies. It also eliminated potential confusion related to interpreting professional’s handwritten instructions and it reduced the amount of people utilized to perform cumbersome tasks.

The internet has been a continuous source of information and diagnostic resources for physicians. It also has helped patients gain a better understanding of his/her health condition as people get more engaged in reading about health issues pertaining to them. Reference databases such as MEDLINE and Stat Ref. as well as drug databases have proven to be great resources for doctors and health professionals. Doctors will refer to these reference databases to make sure they choose the appropriate medication, correct dosage and avoid drug interaction. But despite all of these developments in Health care, there is still a lot that must be accomplished. [7]

President Obama’s stimulus package is putting aside $29 billion for health care technology and the development of electronic healthcare records. It is believed that doctors will be more empowered to make decisions when it comes to diagnosis and subsequent treatment of a given health condition if they have a more centralized system in which they can access every bit of information pertaining to a patient’s health history, according to NextGen, a Health Care Information System company which has offices in different states. [6] It is evident that the new stimulus bill will help every physician in America to burst their IT capabilities and that may translate into providing better care to patients all around the country.

Computer Information Technology has revolutionized the Biomedicine and Health Care industries and has caused a major impact for human quality of life over the past few decades. Besides being a great ally in the fight against life threatening diseases, computers also have contributed enormously as a diagnostic and prevention tool. With the help of computers, new systems have been implemented to make the work of scientists, doctors and health care professionals more dynamic and efficient.



Works Cited

[1] Illinois Institute of Technology, http://www.iit.edu/~marajos/CS485/project/emr.html
[2] Educational Facilities of the Michael Smith Labs, The University of British Columbia, www.bioteach.ubc.ca/human-genome-project-biology-and-computers-together/
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stem_cell#Treatments
[4] Mike Wininger, National Science Foundation, http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=111169&org=DGE
[5] http://www.stemsoft.com/.
[6] NEXTGEN, Health Information System, http://www.nextgen.com/stimulus/?_kk=healthcare%20stimulus&_kt=011447d5-3d26-4083-8b55-b1f4a52a043b&gclid=CPf3vuDnk5oCFUpM5Qodn3MnNA
[7] Computer Concepts, June Jamrich Parsons/ Dan Oja, 11th Edition.

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