The rise of technology comes with its advantages and disadvantages.
As a whole, the use of more and more technology in medicine has helped facilitate many breakthroughs and streamline the care we provide. The near-instantaneous feedback of diagnostics and interventions in the past 20-30 years has pushed us further into the Star Trek vision of medicine than ever before. The fact that I can perform a scan of your body, look inside, decide a course of action, and quickly research it on my phone or tablet within the same hour is unprecedented and it is only going to continue forward at warp speed.
With all of those advances, it certainly has helped bring medicine into the information technology age in full force. A lot of our practice can now theoretically be done on a computer. Having said that, the gains you make with technology is only as great as the infrastructure and the people manning it.
At this current point of medicine, the transition to higher technologies has been a painful one. Different health authorities use different electronic medical record systems (EMRs) that do not communicate with each other. Not everything has been digitized, leaving some reports falling through the cracks and back into the paper files. Inadequate server infrastructures threaten to wipe every patient’s slate clean. Some providers, particularly the older generation, are not adept at using higher technologies. The result unfortunately is a system that continues to operate on average at the same speed as it used to with an amount of paper waste that refuses to decrease.
Give it another couple of years, when a new technologically-savvy generation of doctors begin to push to reshape and improve the situation. Already, I have seen great examples of technology facilitating the practice in medicine in what I would consider its prime: automated form letters create tailored letters detailing a patient’s history while all that remains to be written by a physician is the referring question; an entire office of intercommunicating computers pushing data from one machine to the next, legible computer prescriptions digitally faxed from your screen to the pharmacy; continuous and easy access to the world’s foremost journals and references at all times, giving you the best information to make the best decisions.
The future for us is bright; every day we make progress towards it. For now though, we just need to bear through the growing pains.