Viewpoint: Maximize use of technology in practice

December 4, 2009

Technology has improved medical care immensely in the past two centuries, yet the profession struggles with how to use it most effectively.

Technology and medicine have long had a contentious, if mutually beneficial, relationship.

Technological innovations can be simultaneously overhyped and unfairly maligned. One can imagine the first ancient healer to use cloth bandages faced the scorn of those who swore that nothing could improve on a bundle of leaves pressed into a wound.

Odds are, however, that same EHR-skeptical physician swears by technology that his predecessors regarded with a jaundiced eye. Time and experience tend to separate the necessary technology from the unnecessary, and the worthwhile innovations are gradually incorporated into daily practice. Technology is inseparable from medicine, and that is a good thing.

The cover article in this issue will, I imagine, excite the technophiles and bore, if not exasperate, those skeptical of the latest gadgets.

Senior Editor Morgan Lewis Jr. discusses eight new tools for the front office, reception area and exam room. None of these is going to revolutionize primary care, but they have the potential to make your practice a little more efficient and profitable. They range from a hand washing system that tracks those who aren't as hygienic as they should be to a cardiac exercise stress test (the treadmill pictured on the cover) to an updated dictation microphone that links with EHRs.

A few of the eight might catch on with physicians, while the rest will be rendered obsolete by better and cheaper competitors or simply be found to be unnecessary.

For those who would rather read about people than technology, we have a first-person article by a North Carolina physician who discovered that skill in delivering bad news to patients' families does not make it easier to counsel and console her own relatives.

Lastly, the Clinical Centers of Excellence series, which had been running the first issue of every month through October, will now appear the first issue of every other month. This issue, Medical Economics profiles some of the best institutions for treating dementia.