Book Review: The Digital Doctor

If you have ever had a negative experience with technology in a medical office, everDigital Doctor felt so upset at the intellectual speed bumps of an EMR, frazzled by the dozens of mouse clicks required for even the simplest task or  felt isolated as a patient when your doctor spends your whole appointment looking at their computer, you may be wondering “how did we get here?”  What happened that caused medicine to value the input of data more than any other aspect of a medical encounter?  To find those answers and many more, I recommend reading “The Digital Doctor” by Dr Robert Wachter.

I just recently finished reading this book and can’t stop thinking about it.  This book is not the love letter to healthcare technology that I thought it would be.  Originally published in 2015 with the latest edition published in 2017, “The Digital Doctor” tells the story of healthcare technology, with specific focus on electronic medical records, has taken over modern American Medicine.  Dr Wachter interviewed 100 individuals and weaves their personal stories of the impact of changing healthcare policy on how patients receive and physicians provide care.

While technology and electronic medical records have the potential for improving medical care, Dr Wachter paints the picture that too much dependence on technology that is not quite good enough is a recipe for disaster.  Several chapters of the book are explains, from numerous points of view, how a long patient could receive a dose of medicine that was 39 times too high.  How could the electronic medical record have led a physician to the wrong dose calculation, how could the pharmacist not realize the error and how could the nurse give a patient 39 tablets when one was what was required?  The story is fascinating and the subtle role that technology played in this mistake at every single phase is almost terrifying.

Dr Wachter goes into a lot of detail about other components of healthcare technology like Personal Health Records, Patient Portals, Open Notes and Social Connectivity.  For anyone out there who uses EPIC for their EMR, like I do, there is a whole chapter dedicated to the behemoth Wisconsin company.  If nothing else, you will appreciate the story of Charm the horse and probably think of nothing else the next time you log into EPIC.

You can find the book on Amazon here and you will not be disappointed.   I do not participate in any affiliate marketing, this is just my opinion.  I do feel that any one who wants to change the future must understand the past.  For those like me who want to impact positively our digital and connected healthcare future, The Digital Doctor is a must read.

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