Friday, December 30, 2011

Health Technology Critics Are Missing the Point (Part 2)

Modern smart devices effectively put personal computers in the pockets of a hospital’s entire staff. Along with that convenience comes the siren call of workplace distractions. It is all too easy to whip out a phone for a quick text, a few Facebook posts, and a round of Words with Friends on the job. While that may not be the end of the world in other office positions, a poorly timed conversation in healthcare could be the difference between lifeand death.

A recent email blast from Plexus Institute entitled "Do Electronic Devices in Health Care Present New Risks for Patient Safety" resonated with me on a very deep level, confirming suspicions gathered from informal conversations across the country. Fifty-five percent of perfusion technicians admitted having cell phone conversations while monitoring machines--and half had texted during surgery. Then a New York Times story by Matt Richtel highlighted a malpractice case in which a neurosurgeon made more than 10 personal calls during surgery to family members and business associates.

Phone calls during surgery? Texting while checking on patients? Those seem like fairly large red flags begging for regulation. As it turns out, those regulations already exist, they just aren’t enforced. “Managers are noticeably absent from the front line. It happened very slowly over a long period of time; their workload increased and changed, demanding that they spend more time in meetings and their offices,” says Hospital Impact’s Kathleen Bartholomew. “While most hospitals have a policy regarding the use of technology for personal reasons during work, very, very few actually enforce that rule…If it's not enforced, then it's not a rule. It's the norm.”

This is yet another case where simple education and enforcement would make the world of difference. Social media, if handled in perfect conditions, could provide medical professionals with the opportunity to communicate large concepts in real-time. Physicians could provide the medical advice that consumers are looking for, but accurately. They could share updates, pharmaceutical recalls, and outbreak information in a timely way.

There are plenty of good arguments against new technologies, but at the end of the day, it comes down to using technology in the best possible way, not just sweeping it under the rug.


Pam Argeris is a thought leader in the Healthcare Industry and possesses extensive, hands-on experience with CMS compliance, and multiple regulatory bodies such as NCQA, JACHO, and DOI. In her role at Merrill Corp., Pam focuses on developing solutions for compliance and quality assurance, delivered in a cost effective manner to improve beneficiary and prospect communications. You can contact Pam at

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