Courtesy RichardHollingham, bbc.com
High Voltage = Electric Chair, Low Voltage = Einstein ?
Courtesy David M. Denton, Commentary, InformationWeek.com
Technology isn’t enough to improve healthcare. Doctors must be able to distinguish between valuable data and information overload.
As a doctor, I know the value of information, but I also know what’s worse than not enough information: misinformation or too much information. In this information age, we seem to have plenty of both.
No matter what you think or believe, you can find proof of it on the Internet. You can also find a million and one ways to decorate your living room, making it overwhelmingly impossible to decide which ideas to use. The Internet is great at quenching our attention deficits by providing novelty at every click. Indeed, we can spend hours reading, watching, listening, or commenting without accomplishing anything at all. On the other hand, we get access to excellent resources and minds, beyond what was possible in a non-connected world.
Modern medicine also struggles with managing information. In our lust for data, we have created systems that store every keystroke, scan, or import, in a limitless cloud. Discrimination is no longer necessary. The pertinent and the frivolous are stored side by side. We no longer have data; we have “big data.” This allows the detection of trends and patterns that could never be identified with our smaller data sets. We are just beginning to understand its power.
Interestingly, however, while computers are great at sorting through data quickly and efficiently, humans aren’t. In fact, “more,” often clogs our ability to discern and decide. Additionally, computers can’t distinguish good data from bad data. At present, humans are still required to use the data to make decisions and care for patients. Until we have computers that can form therapeutic alliances, be compassionate, diagnose conditions, and provide and coordinate reasonable treatments, we are still dependent on fallible biologic beings to provide our medical care.
One of the hopes of electronic health records (EHRs) is that they will revolutionize medicine by collecting information that can be used to improve how we provide care. Getting good data from EHRs can occur if good data is input. This doesn’t always happen. To see patients; document encounters; enter smoking status; create coded problems lists; update medication lists; e-prescribe medications; order tests; find, open, and review multiple prior notes; schedule follow-up appointments; search for SNOWMED codes, search for ICD-9 codes, and find CPT codes to bill encounters (tasks previously delegated to a number of people); and compassionately interact with patients, providers have to take shortcuts.
Courtesy Rich Mildren, LiveScience.com
Courtesy Nathan Olivarez-Giles, theVerge
The University of Washington envisions a future where our bodies will be tuned to heal us just as easily as software is built to entertain us — and it’s come up with a method that could eventually turn this idea into a reality. University researchers have developed a programming language that engineers could use to build artificial DNA molecules that can be embedded into human cells. While the language is still in its infancy and not far enough along for use in the medical industry, the university says it hopes its creation will eventually be used to craft custom molecules that can be inserted into a patient’s body to deliver drugs or detect diseases and other abnormalities.
IT’S LIKE JAVA OR PYTHON, BUT FOR DNA
The language essentially builds on the sort of chemical equations anyone who has taken a chemistry class will be familiar with. In a report published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, researchers said the language lets them write equations for DNA in code that can be used to test new drugs and medical treatments. In theory, the language could program DNA molecules to control our cells no differently than a rudimentary computer. If Washington’s software-like approach to dictating how our cells operate pans out, doctors could someday have us ingesting code instead of pills to fight off diseases.
Courtesy Chris Matyszczyk, CNET
A teenage girl puts two household chemicals in a water bottle at school to see what might happen. There is a small explosion. No one is hurt. She is expelled and charged with weapons possession.
Who among us hasn’t — just once in our lives — put a couple of things in a test tube, a bottle, or our mouths and wondered what might happen?
Occasionally, this might have difficult consequences. But rarely does someone try to arrest us for it.
16-year-old Kiera Wilmot wasn’t so lucky.
This student at Bartow High School in Florida allegedly thought she’d put a couple of household chemicals in an 8-ounce water bottle, just to see the reaction.
The reaction was that she was expelled and marched off in handcuffs, accused of felony possession/discharge of a dangerous weapon.