I was sitting in my office chair yesterday and contemplating some of the recent predictions I had read about. I combined these predictions with my own, and even looked back at a few of my own blog posts to get a sense of the pace at which technology has been moving forward. For a moment,, I felt anxious and even overwhelmed. I didn’t see how I could keep up with everything that was happening, but more so become expert enough in it, so as to advise others. As it is now, I spend 3 to 4 hours a day just reading, and taking notes, in order to stay reasonably on top of the latest developments in medicine and technology.
3 to 4 hours a day is a lot of time. And not that long ago, when I was working 12 to 14 hours a day, without a day off in the week, I simply did not have that kind of time to stay up-to-date. I would assume that the same holds true for many if not nearly all physicians. Just staying abreast of medical news is difficult enough. But trying also to stay on top of the daily technology news is nearly impossible, if you are working a full time medical practice.
This clearly says to me that physicians need to have extremely efficient tools that constantly feed them with up-to-date information. I personally believe, based on my own reading and personal experience with the design of my own EMR, that one of the most effective ways to provide continuing medical information, is to have it pop up as short summaries at the most appropriate times. For example, if a doctor is presently treating a patient with shingles, it would be appropriate for that doctor to see an update related to the latest evidence-based recommendations for treatment. And once this pop up has appeared for this particular doctor, it should not have to appear again. Inserting updates into the doctor’s regular workflow does not significantly slow the physician’s work but still keeps the doctor in line with the most recent medical research.
When a physician is sitting in his or her office, in front of a fixed computer screen, there is effectively one place to look for all of the necessary information. But what happens when the physician is walking down the corridor door to a patient’s room, or is actually in the patient’s room, or is in a conference, i.e. away from the desktop? Until recently, a doctor’s communication was based in his or her mobile phone. Also, the same mobile device was a source of information for all things. While in a conference, if a term was used that a particular physician was not familiar with, all that was needed was a few moments on the mobile device and a complete definition was available.
Just in the last couple of years, alternative mobile devices have become additional legitimate go-to services for communication and information. The reports of Google Glasses’ death have been greatly exaggerated. Not only are other companies, such as Microsoft, working on augmented reality devices, but Google itself is still very much in play in the enterprise environment, and is actively working on version 2 of Google Glasses. Smart watches are all over the place now. The most recent Consumer Electronics Show [one of the biggest consumer technology shows around], had rows and rows of smart watches in multiple form factors for multiple companies.
In most cases, digital glasses and watches require connectivity with a person’s smart phone. So it seems that just as we were getting used to only having to carry/wear a single device, we were immediately inundated with a whole new family of technologies that required additional placement somewhere on our bodies.
It seems that the circle of technology continues to turn and soon, we will be back to unobtrusive personal devices. One prediction is that by 2018, more than 25 million head-mounted displays will be in use. This is of course only a fraction of the billions of people in the world who now have some type of mobile phone. But 2018 is only three years away. I have seen it written that by 2016, i.e. next year, biometric sensors will be featured in nearly half of consumer smart phones. Within the next couple of years, facial, eye, voice and palm authentication will become standard. Before 2020, all of these technologies will exist within a single mobile device that we will often forget we are even carrying/wearing.
All of these predictions are consistent with a vision for “invisible wearables”. Faster than most people have predicted, our collection of mobile technologies will transform into hidden/integrated devices that are in our clothes and furniture, scattered throughout our environments, and even ever present when we are walking outside. People who challenge these predictions argue that the need for a high quality screen will continue to demand a physical device that is manipulated most likely by hand, for many years to come. I personally no longer believe that any technology will be around for “many years to come”. And even if the solution for the “missing screen” is something as “mundane” as smart contact lenses, I think it is reasonable to say that mobile phones should start considering retirement.
There is actually a tremendous irony in the way in which mobile technology is moving. There are people today who feel that they are horribly weighed down by all forms of technology, and can never feel free of the big-city modern-day rat race. But within the next 5 to 10 years, the technologies that we use constantly today, will blend into our environments [and under our skin] and we will once again feel free of any technological encumbrance. This freedom will be a delusion as we will in fact be totally surrounded by nano robots and mega data centers. But one of the beauties of the human mind is to be able to create almost any perception, as long as there are no obvious stimuli that challenge that perception.
I love technology but there is a big part of me that hates change. As digital devices become invisible to our senses, it seems that I will be able to enjoy all technologies while maintaining the delusion that my personal space has not really changed that much.
Thanks for listening