Gary Oftedahl: Excuse Me, It’s My (i)Phone
OK, I admit it, I’m in the baby boomer generation. I have strong personal drive, passion for work, and commitment, but like many others my age I’m afflicted with a bit of an aversion to new and evolving technology. I’d resisted the temptation to upgrade my cell phone for months. ”Why do I need an iPhone, I barely use my cell phone?” was my most common excuse.
Three weeks ago, I submitted to the pressure, feeling compelled to expose myself to this exploding technology (perhaps not exploding to you, but after all, I’m a boomer). As ICSI’s Chief Knowledge Officer, it behooved me to learn more about what this might offer. After all, I’d been heard to proclaim (perhaps indiscriminately)–”What if the iPhone is the medical home?”–and watch for the bemused expressions of tolerance I occasionally see. And so in the spirit of exploration, I purchased an iPhone.
Today, I’m addicted to the device, and wonder how I ever got by before I discovered all its wonders. In retrospect, comparing my cell phone to an iPhone was akin to comparing a covered wagon to a Ferrari–same purpose, but a little difference in the level of services and comfort. But buried amongst this is the realization that if we in health care don’t “get it” and start using this evolving technology, we’re going to be left behind, if we’re not already, in meeting the expectations and needs of the younger generations.
There are many great things about my iPhone. I realize there’s quite some controversy over the Apple business methods, the limitation of access of Google to the iPhone application shop, and others, but it’s the basic technology and capabilities I’m in wonder of–likely to be seen in the other evolving models.
Is it applicable to the health care arena? Well, I can already review the ACC guidelines, listen to medical education programs (ReachMD), get advice on my medical symptoms from the University of Maryland Center application (UMMS Medical Info), get information on drug interactions in the palm of my hand instantaneously (Medscape), do a literature search (PubMed On Tap), monitor my physical activity (innumerable pedometers, calorie counters, etc.), or get news streams from multiple medical sources and specialties (Blackbag), to list a few.
We’ll hear about applications to manage diabetes, which already exist, links to our personal health record through Microsoft HealthVault and GoogleHealth, as well as physicians managing their practices from an iPhone. I’m not even doing service to the entirety of the resources already there, but highlighting only a few.
Also if you’re directionally challenged as I am, the built in GPS and maps program guarantee that I’ll never be lost again (or at least not for long). Hold the device up to a radio playing a song you don’t recognize, and Shazam (that’s the program) will in less than 30 seconds, tell you the song title, artist, album, provide lyrics, and oh by the way, direct you to iTunes in case you’d like to purchase it.
The exploding number of applications, the creativity of those developing them, tells me we’ve only just begun. As we consider the need to reform health care, we must avoid just putting new wheels on a horse and buggy, but contemplate how we can take advantage of exploding technology to increase our ability to meet our patients needs. I did check, but there is no application which will provide the assistance our political leaders need in crafting the reform package. It’s a shame, they could use it.
Otto Scharmer, in his book Theory U (I had to get a reference in here somehow) talks about our tendency to “plan from the past,” using our past experiences to plan tomorrow’s innovations, when we in reality need to “plan from the future” considering how we can look forward for inspiration. Realizing that in two years, we’ll be using a technology we don’t even know exists today, how can we use this existing but rapidly changing technology to accelerate our planning into the future?
Oops, my iPhone is vibrating, another application is calling……..