Medicine’s Emerging Digital Culture

November 2, 2012

I suspect that we’ll see a real digital culture emerge surrounding doctors and medicine.  One centered on a new mindset and workflow, created with new tools.  At one point we were only seen in fluorescent lit offices with stethoscopes.  The AMA and the public affairs messengers in our local hospital decided what we understood about doctors.

Not any more.  We are all publishers.  The world sees us for what we are.  Fertile, brilliant, edgy and human in the way we think about health and medicine.  Everything you understand about what we do and how we can get it done will be different.  New tools and a new set of platforms will define us.

Look at Matt & Mike of Ultrasound Podcast.  A space for ER ultrasound, they build, create and ideate, with an unrestrained flair.  Audio, e-books and, human jpgs, and real writing showcase a new place to center a medical conversation for this corner of medicine.  This is not institutional medicine.  While young academics, what they do is not academics by traditional measures.  This is not ‘private practice.’  Those are one dimensional 20th century views of who we are and what we’re capable of.

This nascent digital culture is invisible to the analog majority stuck at web 1.0 with the belief that email is the killer app.  While what we can do and make is nearly unlimited, the majority among us complain about all that they can’t do and all that the system won’t give them.  Soon these tired souls will serve as a cautionary tale.

“But how do we get doctors to change?” you whine.  As Esther Dyson suggested at Medicine X a few weeks ago, the progress of medicine will happen one retirement at a time.

Technology has created the foundation.  A spirit to build and create with amazing tools will complete the act.

This couldn’t have happened at any other point in time.


Bob West November 2, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Glad I am not the only one using sarcasm to hasten progress!
Great post, Bryan.

- Bob

DrV November 3, 2012 at 8:39 am

It’s healthy sarcasm, Bob!

Dr Irwin Lim November 2, 2012 at 2:15 pm

“The progress of medicine will happen one retirement at a time”

I’m sure to borrow that line in a talk or two now! And when I do, it will be spoken as an impatient Generation-Xer.

DrV November 3, 2012 at 8:40 am

That’s paraphrased from Esther Dyson. Her discussion at Stanford Medicine X was really nice. Amazing to hear her think.

Hirnhaut November 4, 2012 at 10:33 am

Here’s a digital way to participate in preventive medicine. There is a petition to request greater regulation of drug compounding facilities that have caused the recent stream of headlines on iatrogenic fungal meningitis. It appears on the ”We the People” website. Compounding facilities engaged in interstate commerce need greater regulation to meet the medical standards that warrant Americans’ trust in healthcare. You can view and sign the petition here (you may have to cut and paste in your browser):

Ashley P. November 16, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I am a pre-medical undergraduate student taking a Medicine & Media course in which we recently discussed the shift in medicine towards a more digital approach to healthcare. In addition to shifts such as the ones you have mentioned, we also discussed the transition to electronic medical records.

A complete EMR system would allow hospitals nationwide to access a patient’s information with the click of a button, drastically increasing the accessibility of patient information and efficiency of care. The benefits of such a system are numerous, and will surely serve as catalysts for other technological advances. However, we have also discussed setbacks and issues such as consolidation, uniformity, and privacy.

Topol comments on the first of these, noting that the vast amount of medical data would be incredibly complicated to consolidate. The ideal database would include information about millions of individuals with information derived from multiple hospital and physician practices, which currently have their own unrelated methods of EMR filing.

Esther Dyson’s comment at Medicine X addressed the issue of uniformity. The medical field will not (and cannot) fully recognize its digital capabilities unless all generations embrace new technology. A pen-and-paper and digital mixture effectively cancels out the benefit of a consolidated EMR database.

Finally, an EMR system would make a patient’s very personal medical information digitally available to numerous physicians and other individuals. Unsurprisingly, privacy is a huge concern for such a system, and it would require stringent security restrictions.

The ongoing movement towards a more ‘digital culture’ in the field of medicine is exciting and inevitable. As an aspiring doctor, I am intrigued to see how innovation can be used to develop this ‘digital culture,’ combat some of these potential set-backs, and transform the medical field by the time undergraduates of my generation become the next wave of practicing physicians.

Topol, The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care

Kiara Sanchez November 16, 2012 at 1:16 pm

I can’t agree more with Esther Dyson’s statement. The skepticism and unfamiliarity with technology from the older generation of physicians has undoubtedly slowed the progression of technology use in the medical world. Let’s acknowledge that although the technological advancement has the potential to completely revolutionize the medical field, there are still major glitches that need to be smoothed out; for example, the automated selection system in some EMRs have the potential to leave out important information in the patient narrative. I think, in order to reach the full potential of technological medicine, all medical professionals need to be on the same page. With new teaching technologies like the METI patient simulation, young health professionals are being taught in a different way than their predecessors, causing a disconnect in methods and even mind frame when it comes to approaching medicine. As a pre-med student, I know that when I enter medical school I will be taught to think in a way that is different from the older generation physicians. I think that once the non-technological generation, if you will, is no longer practicing, the medical field will finally all share the same mindset, allowing smoother collaboration and advancement. The flow of ideas will be easier understood and passed along and everyone will be able to smoothly transition to new pieces of equipment or computer programs. We have a long time for this to happen, leaving the medical field at an almost lull, waiting for the real medical technology revolution to begin.

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