Susan E. Mazer, Ph.D. Blog

Thoughts and ideas on healthcare

Hi, and welcome to my blog! I'm Susan E. Mazer -- a knowledge expert and thought leader on how the environment of care impacts the patient experience. Topics I write about include safety, satisfaction, hospital noise, nursing, care at the bedside, and much more. Subscribe below to get email notices so you won't miss any great content.

The Future is Now!

April 19, 2011

Time is hardly slowing down for any of us.  In fact, with faster internet speeds, social media, cloud software, and ever present smart devices, none of us can authentically take a real vacation from our lives. — it follows us everywhere.

While there has been some control in the past regarding cell phone use in hospitals, at this point, most hospitals who can, provide wireless access to their patients and families, online access for patients to check their own lab reports, and email communications between physicians and patients.  The world is spinning faster for so many of us, but not all of us.

With all of this, there remains a segment of our population in the U.S. and, as well, whole communities in other countries, who are living in real time, not cloud time, for whom “iPhone” implies a communication rather than a device.  There are those for whom Medline, WEBMd, and PubMed are foreign codes for a world that is inaccessible.

What does this mean for providers, for physicians and nurses, and for families who remain outside the circle of knowledge which is growing by the gigabyte as I write this?

At the recent National Association of Broadcasters Annual Exposition in Las Vegas, Gordon Smith, the President of NAB, spoke to the continuing value of free, on-air television.  The need that remains for communities to have access to their own neighbors, to know the weather, to receive news relevant to what is happening in their own town.

He spoke of this within the context of the ongoing fight for bandwidth, for IP television streaming, for everything that these communities do not have.  There are health implications in all of this discussion. For example, understanding the importance and effectiveness of hand-washing specifically during the flu season has been touted redundantly on television programs on health that are unreachable to an economically challenged senior who has an old television and can’t afford to pay for cable.

Recalls of entire food lots because of e-coli contamination, toys that have proven dangerous to toddlers, and defective automobiles have only been successful because of media alerts that go viral.

The C.A.R.E. Channel remains a closed-circuit channel that is easily accessible to everyone who can see a television while in the hospital, everywhere.  It is also provided at not cost to patients and most often as an open channel on the television.  When patients contact us, we can send an ol’ fashioned standard-definition VHS or DVD.  (Yes, VHS is still viable to many an elderly person!)

We may remain a diverse society that must care not only for those who are living in the future of now, but also for those whose present is in some ways unencumbered by the pressures of continual access, expectation, and technological wonder.

I think I have a handle on all of this technology.  As many of us, I have and use a smart phone, a laptop computer, an IP television, wireless internet everywhere that matters to me, and a Kindle app on everything.  In my doctoral work, I have virtually visited and used libraries all over the academic universe, have communicated with scholars internationally that I may never meet, and have done all of this from my laptop wherever I find myself.

However, when I see a much younger person handle all of these, I realize that I am translating through older paradigms — that technology is a second language to me, not a primary one.  Clearly, I am not the only one, with e-readers offering the real look of a virtual turned page to satisfy my own attachment to the past.

I still understand why the controls for DVDs look like it did with VHS when the forward arrow “>” had relevance in the physical world.  However, with non-linear video formats, we can jump around and it is more about the timeline than the actual tape moving across the magnetic heads of a tape recorder.

We borrow still from the manual typewriter to use a qwerty keyboard, which was developed to deal with the physical arms of the typewriter not crunching upon each other.

Studies have continued to show that only through multiple and diverse paths of learning, with the use of both personal and technological tools — accompanied by real people speaking with real people — is information transformed into action.  So, while the future holds the magic of invention and innovation, the relationships around us remain the most powerful in influencing our lives and our health.

And, yes, time will continue to push forward whether we embrace it and jump on the treadmill of an ever faster moving world, or try to hold on to a pace much slower.

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