Health Care Trends With a Social Media Twist
This is my first contribution to Health Care 3.0, so please be gentle.
Innovation is great: it's super cool, it's empowering, and when healthcare is concerned, it can save lives. It's too bad that innovation also has its downsides. A recent article in The New York Times highlighted the dangers of equipping medical staff with smartphones and tablets. Some of it is just sadly stereotypical of my generation and a little amusing, like seeing doctors and nurses with noses buried in tiny LED screens as they walk hospital halls. More of it is disconcerting, like the patient who was left paralyzed after surgery because the neurosurgeon was too busy making personal calls from a wireless headset. As an SNL skit, it could be funny, but only in that painfully uncomfortable way that I've come to associate with scenes from The Office.
“The computer has become a good place to get a result, communicate with other people,” said Abraham Verghese, a doctor and professor at the Stanford University Medical Center and a best-selling medical writer. “In the interest of preventing medical error, it’s a good friend.”
At the same time, he said, the wealth of data on the screen — what he frequently refers to as the “iPatient” — gets all the attention.
“The iPatient is getting wonderful care across America,” Dr. Verghese said. “The real patient wonders, ‘Where is everybody?’”
Yup. It's a much larger, more terrifying example of Facebook friends and real-life friends. You know, how we have so much information about people in an online profile that we kind of stop caring about actually seeing them? It's a little unsettling when you transfer that mentality from friends to physician-patient relationships.
The only solution I can think of is an IT crack-down that blocks everything that doesn't have to do with patient care, but as your average wily web-surfer, I know that there are always ways around it. Caregivers need to take it upon themselves that they are in the business of life and death, and that their eBay bids should probably wait until after the shift. What are your thoughts?