Every once in a while I like to take a step back and think about all the tech that we take for granted. Yes, it’s easy to get stuck in the discussions of what’s missing from our tech life or ways in which tech could be implemented better in healthcare. However, there’s a whole series of technologies that we use all the time and barely give it a second thought.
Certainly there are some rural areas of the country where their internet connection isn’t very good, but for a large portion of healthcare a nice internet connection is just a feature. Most clinics don’t give their internet connection a second though. It just works. They go online and do what they need to do. Sure, you might have an outage here or there (and those are brutal), but most of the time the internet just works.
Related to this is Wifi. Unless you’re in a clinic where the wifi implementation isn’t very good (and there are still plenty of those), you roam around with your laptop, tablet or other wireless device and it just works. It’s amazing to watch my kids, because they really don’t have any idea on how it works. They just open up the iPad and watch movies as they wish. They literally have no idea what’s required to make that possible. Yep, they take it for granted because the tech has become so good.
We’re now starting to see the next level of ubiquitous internet with 4G speeds being nearly as good as Wifi for many applications. Soon we’ll be taking for granted that we can get good internet speeds almost everywhere we go. The same is true for cell phone connection. The only time I can remember looking at my phone to see how many bars I had was when I was deep in the heart of a National Park. Yes, there are a few places in the wilderness where phone coverage is not likely to hit. However, for 99% of most people’s activities the phone just works.
Another great example is email. I totally take for granted that email just works. If I send an email I assume it’s going to be delivered. Sure, there are times when your email service provider goes down and we have to deal with spam folders, but I don’t really give much thought to whether my email is going to work or not. I just do it all day every day and it just works.
Instant Messenger is another application I use that just works. I know some healthcare institutions that use it, but so far not for PHI. It’s amazing technology that I can see whenever someone is online and send them a message. They can reply almost instantly. The beauty is that most people have become really mature with the use of this technology. It’s a use as needed thing. I don’t greet every person that comes online, but it’s there if I need to get a hold of someone quickly.
Often related to IM is video chats. Unfortunately this hasn’t taken hold very much in healthcare and it’s unfortunate. Video is built into most IM platforms: Skype, Gchat, MSN Messenger (or whatever it’s called now). With video cameras built into so many laptops or desktop cameras available for as cheap as $30, doing a video chat with someone is almost trivial. Add in things like FaceTime on the iPad and the idea of doing a video chat with anyone anytime you want is almost here.
I’m sure there are a hundred other technologies that I could list. The reason I find this so fascinating is that I think we’re going to have the same thing happen with EMR. In the next 5 years, EMR is just going to be another technology that we use without really even thinking about it. We’re not there yet, but it will happen.
I look forward to the day when we start to take EHR for granted.