Every sufficiently advanced little thing she does is indistinguishable from magic

This has been the longest hiatus on this blog so far, and  my last post on November 19th wasn’t exactly a deep meditation on anything.

I am hoping to re-invigorate things a little by successively blogging about three events I attended in the recent past – one last week, one the week before that, and one way back in October. Thinking about it I think this blog will increasingly become a platform for me to working out my thoughts on various matters relating to the intersection of technology and healthcare, medical education, and evidence-based practice/methodology questions. More general writing and “curation” of my old writing will appear on my other blog

On November 25th I attended another meeting of the CCIO, following on from the last one in September. The same caveat (“not only are these opinions not those of the CCIO, the HSE, or any other institution I may have links with, they are barely even those of myself.”) applies.

Unfortunately I couldn’t make the entire day so missed some of the morning session. I was fortunate enough to catch the talk by Robert Cooke , IT Delivery Director for Community Health, which encompasses my own professional area of mental health. As Robert said in his presentation infrastructure-wise particularly, mental health is starting from a low base for eHealth – and therefore infrastructure development is an important place to start.

As with pretty much all of the presentations I have seen at the CCIO Robert’s was particularly impressive in its blend of enthusiasm and a tough-minded realism about the size of the challenge. No one at these meetings is getting up and announcing that tech will magically sort out what ails healthcare. Indeed Robert strongly made the point that systems and processes need to be addressed before technology is applied, rather than waiting for it to be a magic bullet.

There were other very interesting presentations but the highlight was the breakaway group. In a relatively small group myself and three other CCIO members were facilitated in addressing  a) our vision for what eHealth could make the healthcare system look like in five years time, b) what barriers and enablers exist relating to this vision, and c) what would need to change. This exercise was part of the work UCD’s Applied Research in Connected Health team are doing on Ireland’s eHealth journey. As often happens, the discussion was so stimulating that we didn’t get to c) (and barely covered b) in time)

During the discussions about “the vision thing”, the famous Arthur C Clarke quote ““Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology Is Indistinguishable From Magic” kept coming into my mind, along with a memory of a point about Assisted Living Technologies made by Jeffrey Soar at the International Psychogeriatric Association congress in Berlin (which I drafted a blog post on and hope to actually complete very shortly) – those assisted living technologies that are successful are unobtrusive, in the background, invisible.

So much was the Arthur C Clarke quote going round my mind I was impelled to tweet it:

It turned out when I tweeted this that an extremely witty twist on the quote has already been minted:

So my vision for the future of healthcare is sitting in a room talking to someone, without a table or a barrier between us, with the appropriate information about that person in front of me (but not a bulky set of notes, or desktop computer, or distracting handheld device) in whatever form is more convivial to communication between us. We discuss whatever it is that has that person with me on that day, what they want from the interaction, what they want in the long term as well as the short term. In conversation we agree on a plan, if a “plan” is what emerges (perhaps, after all, the plan will be no plan) – perhaps referral onto others, perhaps certain investigations, perhaps changes to treatment. At the end, I am presented with a summary of this interaction and of the plan, prepared by a sufficiently advanced technology invisible during the interaction, which myself and the other person can agree on. And if so, the referrals happen, the investigations are ordered, and all the other things that now involve filling out carbon-copy forms and in one healthcare future will involve clicking through drop-down menus, just happen.

 

That’s it.

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Every sufficiently advanced little thing she does is indistinguishable from magic

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