The use of laptop computers in the neuroscience-informed cognitive training of auditory and verbal working and early auditory processing is found to be promising in improving cognition in patients that have recent-onset schizophrenia according to the result of new research. The study showed that patients who received auditory computer training are improving significantly in their cognitive function compared to individuals with matched control.
Lead investigator Sophia VinogradovMD, from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) told Medscape Medical News: "We have been doing studies of cognitive training in people who have had schizophrenia for 20 years with a lot of psychosocial impairment and impoverishment and have gotten some promising results. The next logical step was to see what would happen when we tried these same approaches in people very early in the course of their illness."
Dr.Vinogradov and her team has been working with patients who have schizophrenia that is within the first 5 years after being diagnosed, wherein average age of their participants for the study is 21 years old."We wanted to target improvement in cognition, which is something that medications and most psychosocial treatments do not touch very well. The cognitive deficits that people with schizophrenia have are present in the prodrome and appear to worsen as the illness progresses, and they have important predictive value for how people will end up doing over the long haul," she said.
80 patients that have recent-onset schizophrenia were given portable computers that they can take home. They were assigned 40 hours of commercial computer games or 40 hours of auditory training randomly wherein they can choose their own schedule doing it within 8 weeks. After the given period, the investigators are seeing changes in their neurocognitive outcome measures, functioning, and symptoms. An investigation was also made on their psychophysical improvement in processing auditory as well as its association with the cognitive gains.
Participants showed a slight but huge decrease in symptoms, they think that the results are promising and that cognition in this young age group can be targeted. It has been regarded that the brains of individuals that have schizophrenia can’t be repaired and are broken, but now they are starting to believe that the neural systems in such individuals can change.
"This is a very exciting study because it shows that cognition can be improved in these newly diagnosed schizophrenia patients. The fact that the laptop was given to the patient and the patient was able to take it home is particularly interesting. Coming into the clinic is pretty stigmatizing for a lot of people, and also can be inconvenient. If these patients can use the laptop at home and get better, that’s wonderful," said Dr. Woolley, who was not part of the study. Joshua Woolley, MD, PhD, from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco, California said.
Almost all occupations rely on computers to complete a task or to be efficient in their work. It is not only used in the office setting, but also in the medical setup as well. We can now see doctors and nurses having handheld computers that contain patient data as well as medical applications that will help them render their job properly. With the advancement of technology today, more and more hospitals are now employing computers for the use of their staff simply because they would want to prevent errors in making a legal document, such as a patient’s chart. However, there are doctors that have their own handheld computer for personal use.
Advantages of having a Handheld Computer in the Medical Setting
- Medical research and education
Doctors install apps, such as medical libraries, in their handheld computers that is actually helpful in situations wherein they are educating medical students, resident doctors, and specializing doctors. With handheld computers, they will be able to present their material in an effective and interactive manner which will aid them in learning.
- Patient Care
Handheld computers are especially helpful in patient treatment. It aids doctors in ensuring and remembering the right drug prescription and treatment protocols. Aside from that, it can also act as a “sticky-note” or an electronic organizer/reminder about patients’ care needs in times where he/she is busy. Also, it can also be a source of information he needs when making treatment decisions through research in medical databases.
- Clinic Administration
More often than not, doctors who have clinics actually rely on their computers for management tasks, such as scheduling and billing, mainly because it’s more convenient and easy. Aside from that, handheld computers can also be a good storage medium for patient data; this will become easier for him to track the data of patients, especially those who are on their follow-up checkup.
The use of portable computers nowadays has several advantages especially in adopting electronic records; however, there are still issues in using it in health care. A good example is running a computerized registry where in any of the provider who has given vaccine to a child can report that certain information. It aims to help children be updated with their immunization through the system.
One of the issues is its compatibility with what the doctors use; they do not update their central database because the data entry is just too much. If this is the case, researchers and doctors cannot rely on it, especially if they are tracking the immunizations of the kids and if the vaccines used are not given twice or missed. Sharing of information is not easy for some doctors.
Most doctors complain about how electronic records are not making them efficient. The health care industry do not benefit from the transformation of computer networks if compared to retail, banking and manufacturing industries. Health information technology of today is not like an ATM card wherein you can take it to any country and withdraw, transfer funds or make any other financial transactions.
A survey from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention revealed that while 72 percent of physicians that are office-based use some kind of electronic system in their practice, only 40 percent of which meet the description of even what we call a “basic” system.
"People talk about the ATM, [but] that’s seven data elements, and they charge you $2.50 for shipping those seven data fields over. We’re talking thousands of data fields around things that are life and death," – FarzadMostashari, the national coordinator for health information technology from the Department of Health and Human Services.
His office constantly meets software vendors doing their best to hammer out the standards of the industry, which is very important to make health information easier to share. Today, the number of doctors and hospitals that use electronic records has significantly increased but it will still take years before huge amount of savings will show.
Patients will definitely benefit from better care and lower cost if the systems can share patient records easily, and this will happen if hospitals and doctors will start getting paid for being smart about information technology. But as of this moment, duplicate tests mean duplicate payments. Doctors are optimistic and believe that IT will become an effective tool for high performance and efficiency.
Generally, computers must be replaced three to four years after. For portable computers in medical school, if you have one that is four years old or more, it is recommended to buy a new one to function in its optimum use. The configuration below is the minimum specifications of a portable computer and can be used for at least two years. If your unit does not meet the basic requirements, consider buying a new one.
For a basic minimum portable computer, the specifications must be the following:
- Intel Core Duo with a processor of 2.2 GHz
- 2 GB RAM
- The hard drive must be 250 GB
- Has a resolution of 1024×768 or higher
- 13” display
- 801.11g WiFi
- Inkjet printer
- VGA jack or adapter
- External monitor of 21”
- External drive must be at least 1 TB
In medical school, most portable computers of the students pass through IT review. If they do not pass the minimum requirements, the students are directed to buy a new one immediately. The specifications described above are the basic requirements as students are taking exams which are web based.
Recommended Hardware Configurations
Medical students prefer portable computers because they are light weight and can be brought anywhere. The recommended configurations of its hardware are the following:
- Macintosh 15”: MacBook Pro with the following features: widescreen display of 15.4’, Intel Quad Core i7, 2.3 GHz, 4 GB RAM, hard drive of 500 GB, Fire Wire 800, 2.0 USB ports, double-layer slot loading SuperDrive, AirPort Extreme, VGA adapter, weighs 5.6 lbs and price starts from $1,800.
- Macintosh 13”: MacBook Pro which has the following features: widescreen display of 13”, Quad Core i5, 2.5 GHz, 4 GB RAM, hard drive of 500 GB, Fire Wire 800, 2.0 USB ports, double-layer Slot-loading SuperDrive, AirPort Extreme, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, VGA adapter, weighs 4.5 lbs and price ranges from $1,200.
There are some medical students who have a hard time choosing between Windows 7 or 8. In purchasing a new Windows portable computer, experts suggest Windows 7 Professional, has a 32 bit version and with RAM of 4GB. However, Windows 8 can be acceptable but it is more prone to troubles unlike Windows 7. Students must be aware that some computer stores sell only Windows 8, so they must look for stores that have a wide variety of selections. In addition, there are cases when students want to upgrade their computers to the latest version but IT experts do not recommend this because of many incompatibilities. If you are a user of Windows computer, you must have Windows 7 because Windows XP can be inadequate for medical school.
Today, especially in medicine, portable computers are very essential. However, they must have the recommended features to work well for your needs.
Computer software is used in diagnosing diseases. It is utilized in the examination of bodily parts and internal organs. Advanced computer systems are being utilized to examine parts of the human body. A number of the complicated surgeries are performed through computers. Computer-assisted surgery (CAS) is an advancing field in medicine, which combines computer intelligence with medical expertise for a faster and precise result in surgery.
In CAS, analysis of the patient is made before surgery. This surgical procedure is adapted in a virtual image for the patient. The surgeries are then done with a surgical robot as programmed by a medical professional, and the robot assists the doctors while doing the real surgery. In either case, the computer works and becomes an underlying tool for surgical procedure.
Utilizing Diagnostic Tests and Computer Technology
The various types of monitoring equipment in these hospitals are oftentimes grounded on computer programs. Medical imaging techniques to make images of the body’s anatomy are generated for medical purposes. A lot of the modern techniques in imaging and scanning are hugely computer based. People are able to do a lot of these advance imaging techniques because of the development of computers.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) also utilizes computer software. Computing tomography utilizes digital geometry processing methods to acquire 3-D images. Advanced infrared cameras and computers are utilized to obtain high-resolution imaging. Computers are vastly utilized in 3-D imaging. Many modern-day medical equipment have portable computers. A lot of the medical facilities these days work with preprogrammed instructions. The logic and circuitry in the majority of this medical equipment are computer based. The functionality of emergency alarms, hospital-bed systems, X-ray machines, and other medical equipment is also computer based.
Communication between Patients and Medical Practitioners
Computer networking allows for faster communication. Portable computers and the internet enable faster interaction among patients and doctors. This is very important in letting doctors know about certain emergencies or urgent situations that may occur while he is probing the hospital or medical facility.
Doctors also collaborate better with the internet on their computers. It is now possible to acquire an expert opinion through the internet and to get in touch with a professional at the other side of the globe. Such communication transpires within minutes. It is because of these computer-networking technologies that communication has become fast and easy.