In technology and innovation, we expect progress. But the physicians who enter practice in the next few years won’t be able to accept change for the sake of change: They must demand real functionality and efficacy from their tools.
Though current technology—and our comfort with technological progress—further encourages innovation, none of the innovations we cover in this issue of TNP are particularly new: The da Vinci system for robotically assisted surgery was approved by the FDA in 2000. PLOS Medicine published its first issue ten years ago next month. Legislation, including the Affordable Care Act, has forced reluctant health care providers to adopt electronic health records, if not embrace them.
The difficulties with EHRs are an excellent example: Their functionality and affordability haven’t met physicians’ needs, yet. EHR platforms purchased by large hospital systems could meet legal requirements, look good on paper and on Power-Point, but may fail the test when it comes to the day-in, day-out entry of patients’ health information by doctors and other health care workers.
Medical students entering the workforce accustomed to easy-to-use, popular mobile platforms for sharing and gathering information may be taken aback by the poorly thought-out user interfaces of their clinic’s EHR system, and that sets up an opportunity for both disaster and disconnect with patients (see Dr. Britani Kessler’s column on page 9).
To read about the promise—and current gray areas of robotically assisted surgery, read Avery Hurt’s feature on page 18. In Perspectives, Dr. Himali Weerahandi questions the value of another innovation: app and phone-based “concierge-lite” medical care.
Not all revolutions are purely technological: The open-access movement, which Beth Rogers covers beginning on page 22, has been growing stronger for a decade. The model has even proven itself to major publishers, who are experimenting with open access titles of their own. Still, both open access and subscription-based models of research publishing have their weaknesses. There’s still much change to come in that area.
I’m not suggesting that we should fear for the future. Rather, I propose that we recognize that the technologies serving us in the present could be better. And while they may help solve some of health care’s most difficult challenges, they won’t do it without tomorrow’s young physicians pushing to improve upon them.