Predicting the occurrence of scientific breakthroughs, particularly in the field of medicine, is exceedingly difficult. Medical research depends on continuous funding from both the public and private sectors, as well as occupying the problem-solving abilities of thousands of research scientists nationwide. There is also the natural stagnation of conventional institutions to consider. For example, once a general plan (whether it is the construction of highways or the layout of present-day municipal hospitals) becomes widely implemented, the particular method of its creation and implementation may become resistant to change. The public is familiar with conventional hospitals and the way they work. Therefore, public opinion may need to be addressed prior to any sweeping changes in conventional healthcare delivery.
Within a hospital, however, change is the only constant. New advances in medical technology constantly produce new solutions to long-standing problems, such as the advent and spread of ambulatory surgical procedures. Also called outpatient care or minimally-invasive surgery, such procedures focus on small plastic tubes that house miniscule cameras and provide the surgeon with precise vision of the surgery site. Minimally-invasive procedures have also drastically decreased costs related to hospital overhead and reduced recovery times during post-operative care.
Like minimally-invasive surgery, many of the new developments in healthcare delivery are focused on extremely small medical equipment. Nanotechnology, a field that involves manipulating the properties of compounds on a molecular level, has enormous implications for healthcare delivery. Medical researchers using nanotechnology are pioneering new compounds that specifically target tumor cells in cancer patients, destroying the cancer cells without harming the body’s natural tissues. While these and other advances in nanotechnology are still in development, patients can count on receiving more effective treatments in the future.
The ways in which hospitals seek compensation are also constantly in flux. Under the Affordable Care Act of 2010, small business owners with more than 50 full-time employees are obligated to provide some form of health insurance coverage to their full-time staff. Employers who refuse to do so will have to pay a substantial financial penalty. The Affordable Care Act also mandates that individuals without insurance will have to purchase some form of federally-subsidized health insurance coverage or pay a penalty as well ($95 or 1% of their income, whichever is greater). While this may be tough for citizens during the economic downturn, it will help hospitals recoup some of the costs they presently incur when providing healthcare services to individuals without insurance.