Fitbit as the Wang Laboratories of Digital Health

Wang computerTechnology’s history has a way of repeating itself.

Consider Wang Laboratories. A 3 billion dollar a year operation in the 1980’s, Wang built its empire on the idea that every office in the world would ultimately use a word processor – a freestanding word processor.

Wang was right on the first count and wrong on the second. Ahead of its time in reference to mainframes, the miniframes on which the Wang empire rested gave way to the personal computer with software that made them a cautionary tale. Nobody wanted a machine that just did word processing.

Consider Fitbit and its apparent trajectory.

While Fitbit is well-suited for 2011, it isn’t positioned for where digital health is headed. Biometrics will evolve and humans won’t wear one appliance for one job. Wrist real-estate will become precious as we find that there’s more to us than steps. And operations like Samsung and Apple will deliver a more comprehensive tool for the job. In the end, Fitbit won’t scale to meet the health care endpoints of a discriminating self-quantifying consumer. The Fitbit will ultimately enjoy a legacy as the Wang Laboratories of digital health. A hula-hoop of our earliest days measuring and mapping.

For now, Fitbit can rest on the surge of interest from those who believe counting steps is the next great thing.

Image via Taryn Domingos/Flickr

Why You Should Attend Stanford Medicine X | Ed

Stanford_Medicine_X_–_Homepage___EdHealth care is changing fast. Everything we understand about what it is to be a physician is changing.  Yet we continue to train doctors for 20th century care.

So the minds at Stanford’s Medicine X thought the subject could use a little discussion. They’re moving the chains with a transformative new meeting about medical education, Medicine X | ed. This fall on the campus of the Stanford University School of Medicine, Medicine X | ed will rethink the future of medical education with a lineup of provocative TED-style talks, learning labs, hands-on workshops and social events that will blow your mind.

If you have any skin in #meded or you’re just fascinated with the future of medicine, you should be at Medicine X | ed. Here’s why:

It’s anti-disciplinary. From patients and psychologists to humanist scholars, MedX | ed is built on the idea that the solutions to some of medical education’s greatest challenges sit beyond the ivory covered walls of traditional education. This meeting brings thinkers from beyond mainstream academia to retool how we are creating the next generation of healers. With a beginner’s mind and a thirst for change, this meeting will examine medical education through an entirely new new lens.

It’s about more than the flipped classroom.  Medicine X | ed will move beyond buzzwords and deliver a full-on program that allows participants to open the white coat and think about how medical education will truly evolve.

It is attracting some of the world’s most forward-thinking educators.  This meeting will bring you elbow-to-elbow with some of medicine’s most disruptive minds. And your participation will open you up to a new family of MedX health champions working to change the world from the bottom up.

Medicine X is one of medicine’s most trusted brands.  Under the discriminating stewardship of Dr. Larry Chu, Medicine X has grown beyond a meeting of thought leaders to a global health movement. And beyond the compelling curriculum is the fact that Medicine X is held in the beautiful Li Ka Shing Center on the campus of Stanford School of Medicine. The palatial surroundings are surpassed only by the personal attention and camaraderie every participant seems to feel. For regulars, MedX feels like summer camp.

As 20th century medicine collapses under the weight of a new digital order, medical education is in desperate need of disruption. Come and be part of that change at Medicine X | ed. I hope to see you there.

Register now on the Medicine X website.

Periscope as a Medical Medium

periscope (1)Doctors are increasingly sharing procedures on Periscope. For the uninformed, Periscope is an in-line Twitter application that facilitates live, personal broadcasting. Most recently, an achilles tendon repair from Ohio State was ’scoped’. I thought it sounded pretty interesting, but I got there too late. The party was over and the video was gone.

The use of Periscope in the OR is the next iteration of live tweeting. The argument with live tweeting was that it was educational. But the reality is that it was a new way for a hospital to have its 15 minutes of fame. On the Visibility-Value Continuum, many of these events have tilted toward visibility.

And when it comes to Periscope and operative procedures, what’s new may be what’s old again.

Admittedly, broadcasts are more interesting than live tweets. But what’s more educational is the enduring nature of a recording that can be seen, linked to, and commented on months later. This would be a recording on YouTube or Vimeo. Periscope, on the other hand, fits into what might be referred to as an ephemeral media. It’s a piece of viewable information that disappears after a time.

Before choosing Periscope as a medium, I might first ask myself whether this is an event that needs a live, in-line broadcast? Or would it be better served recorded and published.

Live has its draw, for sure. And there are things about Periscope that make it valuable. It’s real value may come from the fact that it’s just easy. Even if I wanted to, the process of finding and uploading to a YouTube Channel can be a small chore that raises the barrier to sharing. And for heavy twitter users like myself, Periscope is part of my workflow. Perhaps more importantly, it’s where my audience is.

When it comes to (free open access) medical education, enduring content that’s searchable and retrievable is where the money is. Live has its place, but I’m concerned that it could be more for visibility than value.

When Your Boss Mandates Twitter


I had lunch with a surgeon recently. Salad, hummus and small talk. Then he announces, “My boss wants me to be on Twitter. He wants me to Tweet.  You know, become a Twitterer.” The sarcasm was palpable. Here’s the problem: Nobody can make someone … [Continue reading]

The Man Machine Dichotomy

businessman with gas mask watching TV

Check out Where does the Doctor Stop and the Computer Begin? by Jim Salwitz over on KevinMD. I adore Dr. Jim Salwitz. He represents one of the infosphere’s most insightful minds in oncology. But I have a problem with the title. It assumes a … [Continue reading]