Blog | Thursday, December 20, 2012

Using technology in medicine, the good and the bad

There is a wonderful article in the New York Times, Redefining Medicine With Apps and iPads."

They do a great job of considering the benefits and the risks.

On my rounds I embrace technology in the right situations. My rounding day with students and residents starts with "pre-rounding." Before we go to the bedside I hear reports from the students and interns about each of our patients. They present the new patients. For each patient we use technology to review laboratory tests. We look at the X-rays on our computer. When questions come up on rounds, we do quick searches, most often on smartphones, but sometimes on tablets.

But when we go to the bedside, we refrain from technology. I believe in high touch bedside manner. When we go to the bedside, we focus solely on the patient, their story and their exam.

But when we go to the chart to write our notes and prescribe medications, we once again pull out our technology to get the doses right, to use the correct antibiotic for the presumptive diagnosis that we have made.

The key here, and the article suggests this implicitly, is that we physicians should never be "one trick ponies." We must embrace technology, but understand that technology is an aid. Technology helps us gather information quickly and accurately. It cannot replace what we do at the bedside, but it can augment our ability to minimize errors.

db is the nickname for Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP. db stands both for Dr. Bob and da boss. He is an academic general internist at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and is the Associate Dean for the Huntsville Regional Medical Campus of UASOM. He also serves as a frequent ward attending at the Birmingham VA Hospital. This post originally appeared at his blog, db's Medical Rants.