6 Reasons Medical Students Should Brush Up On Their Coding Skills | Hacker Noon

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@HassanSyed Hassan

This is Syed Hassan, a digital marketing strategist & writer by profession.

Whether you ‘re a practicing physician, a medical student or just thinking about pursuing a career in medicine in the foreseeable future, you will inevitable come across technology somewhere in your job.

In an era of electronic medical records, robotics in surgery, smart healthcare systems, and telemedicine, it makes sense for a doctor to be computer literate and technology savvy.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise when I see doctors teaching themselves to code or attending “dev bootcamps” to learn from professionals. Here are a few reasons doctors and future doctors should learn to code:

Navigating Technologies in Healthcare

Doctors of today can’t really escape the tangles of technology.

In today’s technology pervasive world, technology is incorporated in every facet of clinical practice, be it surgical procedures, clinical research, or checking patient’s records. Healthcare providers who lack the basic know-how of technology will find themselves in a pickle when it comes to taking care of the sick.

For instance, more and more hospitals are shifting to electronic health records. Electronic medical records help to minimize medical errors and provide doctors with vital information about their patients at critical moments.

Doctors who are computer literate are having an easier time
adapting to these systems, and even offer training and assistance to their colleagues. While most systems only necessitate rudimentary technical expertise to operate, the presence of bugs may compromise those records and most doctors would be hindered from accessing them in a timely manner.

On the other hand, a doctor or physician with sound technical foundation will help make that system more useful in healthcare delivery.

Programming Aids in Better Evidence Based Medicine

Current medical practice relies heavily on evidence based medicine, which again is dependent on data science. Whereas it was unheard of for doctors to learn statistics before, it has become a major aspect of training practice today.

Gathering and processing data is vital to ensuring consistency in quality healthcare delivery. Python and R programming languages are emerging as the most popular choices when it comes to data analysis and processing. Doctors with some basic coding skills will be better at acquiring useful data and analyzing it.

Coding Helps Doctors Develop Technology

Even the best scientists and data analysts cannot always comprehend the impact of a certain piece of technology in healthcare provision, and often rely on doctors and caregivers to improve on their creations.

Since most medical related technologies depend on the use of coding, doctors with good coding skills will be better able to contribute to the creation or development of a health related tech from ground up, be it a robotic arm or a health app.

Using Innovative Technologies in Their Practice

Technology is introducing plenty of tools for doctors to help them become better at what they do. For instance, images from an MRI scan show areas of the brain affected by pain and how they change when the patient is immersed in a virtual reality world.  

Similarly, 3D printing has come a long way with its applications in external prosthetics, cranial or orthopedic implants, and custom airway stents. Doctors are using AI-enhanced microscopes to scan for harmful bacteria in blood samples as well as detect cancer at its bud.  There are devices that utilize opto-acoustic imaging to help physicians identify whether breast lesions are benign or malignant, while AR can assist doctors during complex surgeries. While stick in the mud doctors would shy away from these burgeoning discoveries, doctors who are comfortable with using technology would be able to navigate these innovations easily.

Technology friendly doctors might find it less hassle-some to use virtual consultation tools, wireless blood pressure cuffs, robotic arms during surgeries, or even patient monitoring systems. Or they might try their
hands at the new virtual reality games for practicing complicated surgeries or hone their diagnostic skills. Technology can also shape your interaction with peers and patients.

For instance, AI based systems can match physicians and patients to improve referrals and scheduling, predict bioactivity and identify patient characteristics for clinical trials, or even find candidates for developmental drugs related to neuromuscular and neurodegenerative disorders.

Recommending Health Apps to Patients

The past few years have seen the emergence of hundreds of mobile health apps that claim to do everything from monitoring heart rate and blood pressure to diagnosing malignances and tracking your fitness. While some of these apps can really prove to be handy, some of them are nothing
more than snake oil?

While most doctors have no way of differentiating between the health apps on the market, those with good coding skills will be able to root out the most valuable apps and guide the hospital or their patients on which app to use. A tech-savvy doctor will be able to filter the helpful and trustworthy ones which could help people with certain health debilitations, such as diabetes or chronic blood pressure.

Coding Principles may Enhance Clinical Competence

This may sound bizarre to a lot of people, but coding principles can actually be applied to real clinical settings to help doctors make informed and sound decisions.

Programming involves a series of logical steps which when combined can produce a set of actions. This is why coding helps enhance your problem solving acumen and trains your brain to work under pressure.

Not to mention, coding languages are driven by strict rules, for instance, improper dentation can lead to syntax errors at run-time in Python. Similarly, medicine also follows a set of stringent rules and not abiding by them, may lead to disastrous consequences. Doctors who code are better able to stick by instructions and follow procedures.

Understand Trends and Development

Big data to drive important clinical decisions, Augmented Reality to train surgeons, the use of AI to improve healthcare experiences for doctors, and deep learning to replace radiologists and pathologists, we are living in a world where most technological innovations revolve around the ability to code.

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This is Syed Hassan, a digital marketing strategist & writer by profession.

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