The Impact of Computer Science on Health Care & Medicine

Computer science can be defined as the systematic study of algorithmic processes, their theory, design, analysis, implementation and application. Its functions in the modern society today expand far beyond the uses one could even begin to imagine. Specifically, there is an increased influence in its practical application in the field of medicine. In recent times, an interdependent relationship between medicine and technology itself has been developed that did not exist before.

Modern healthcare relies heavily on the application of computer technology in furthering its advancement of bioinformatics, biotechnology, artificial organ technology, robotic surgery as well as the process of medical diagnostics. Medicine is the science of treatment and healing of health and illness and has been documented to originate from as early as the prehistoric age. Surgical operations have been recorded to exist since the ancient Egyptian civilizations, in which they utilized knives, hooks, spoons, and pinchers in their crude surgeries.

However, despite these early manifestations of medicinal practices, the lack of proper health care was apparent through the deficient development and involvement of technology with medicine. The Bubonic Plague in the 14th and 15th century wiped out a devastating one-third of Europe’s entire population due to the complete lack of decent diagnostics and vital vaccines, two elements, related to technology, that were critical to the downfall of Europe during the Black Death. History serves as a testament to the impact that the contributions of the technology have on the advances in medicine.

More in-depth research in medicine was made possible with technological discoveries, such as the microscope, and made way for the breakthroughs in microbiology, vaccines, and many other fields. As the study of computer science was introduced to human societies in the 1900s and machines called ‘computers’ that had a broad range of capabilities for information processing were created in the 1940s, medicine directed its route on the fast track and its developments merged with the innovations of technology to form new biological and technological insights, particularly in the field of bioinformatics and biomedical engineering.

Bioinformatics is the field of science in which biology, computer science, and technology merge, generally in the field of genetics, to allow the discovery of biological information; it was created by Paulien Hogeweg and Ben Hesper in 1978. Bioinformatics’ main fields consist of genomics and DNA sequencing which have been able to further develop through the involvement of computer science in the form of databases, algorithms, and computational analysis of biological data.

The study of bioinformatics has “led to an explosive growth in the biological information generated by the scientific community”(Just the Facts.. . One of its most significant projects on a global level involves the Genomic Revolution, in which bioinformatics researchers strive to create developments to form an understanding of the biological processes that make up the individual elements of human body. Bioinformatics’ significant revolutionary insights include DNA sequencing, protein modeling, and genome mapping, which were all only made possible through the influence of technology and computational biology, the process of analyzing and interpreting data.

Biotechnology is the applied biology in the combination of engineering, medicine, and technology. It, along with biomedical engineering, encompasses the design and analysis that is available through computer science with the fundamentals of biology to improve medical diagnosis, innovations, and monitoring. Emerging from the research of biomedical engineering is the development of prostheses, medical devices for imaging and implants, growth in pharmacology, and robotic surgery, among a vast list of other notable contributions to the medical field and the tissue, neural, genetic, and pharmaceutical engineering.

The influence of computer science and technology has allowed intensive research and the discovery of methods that benefit human societies in the concern of health, specifically in the form of artificial organs and medication. The technology of bioinformatics impacts modern society today through the research and developments of protein modeling, DNA sequencing, and genome mapping. By studying a protein’s structure, family, and the distinct protein building blocks, scientists are able to restructure the evolutionary relationships between species and comprehend the disease-related processes in living organisms.

This is done through X-ray crystallography and NMR spectroscopy technology and will continue to be an essential method of testing various biological hypotheses3. DNA sequencing and genomic mapping is a newly introduced technology that decodes the individual chromosomes, genes and nucleotide sequences through new technologies, sequencing data, and computerized maps. The quickly rising field of bioinformatics is crucial to the progress of discovering the cure to genetic diseases.

It has transformed both the technology it requires to function as well as the revolutionizing medical knowledge “in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of many genetic diseases” (Just the Facts…). The implications of this transformation of information are astounding in the way bioinformatics will alter and modernize the medicine field and sciences in the promotion of large-scale genetic disease prevention that is specific to the client’s genomes.

Biomedical engineering is vital to the modernizing of the societies today through the expansion of artificial organs and robotic surgery. Seeking the marriage of engineering and medicine, biomedical engineering provides researchers and developers the opportunity to construct biocompatible prosthetics and artificial organs that allow the members of our communities to thrive in a society despite having to endure a disability.

This proves to be an enormous and direct impact to lives of millions internationally as the results of biomedical engineering offers the chance to live and function with a normal life. Computer-assisted surgery has made a recent breakthrough in the field of biomedical engineering as it combines robotic technology with human medicine. Robotic surgery also completely transforms the orthodox method of surgical operations as it eliminates both the need for humans and any possible human errors that affect the end result of surgeries, promoting the greater care for health.

With all the changing technologies and its effects on medicine, the daily human life will be, with no doubt, influenced to a great extent. I feel that the revolutionizing changes will increase the quality of health care especially through the innovations of prosthetics, artificial organs, and even stem cell research. I feel that medicine combined with engineering and technology promises great potential in the advancement of human societies by improving human health, science, and medicine overall.

However, I worry about the implications that robotic surgery has for job prospects for surgeons and those in the medical field. I understand that eliminating human error in surgery will prove to be more than beneficial for both patients and medicine; however as a student aspiring to hold a future career in medicine, I fear that the need and popularity for medical professions may become greatly limited due to the advancing technology involving computers in the health care field.

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