Information vs. knowledge
Medicine is mobile
Ever since its beginning, medicine has been a mobile profession considering the art of house calls. But when you look at mobile technology and physicians, you notice that there is something special going on there. Remember he PalmPilot back in the day? These Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) found their way into every white coat almost overnight. Back then, people would have called it a disruptive technology. When I think of it now, I can still clearly remember the conversations that students, residents, specialists, nurses and pharmacists had about these PDAs...
Health care providers rely on staggering amounts of information to help patients. So in the pre-PDA era, all of that had to be remembered correctly, or you would have to visit the library, and you would probably carry many printouts that got folded and faded rapidly in those busy white coats. With PDAs, you could now carry a whole library in your pocket that you could access on the spot. This allowed to save you tons of time. It also gave you a lower threshold to consume medical literature so it was educational at the same time. It gave everyone a more secure feeling that all of that important information was instantly accessible to you, 24/7.
Disrupting the disruptor
When smartphones arrived at the scene, PDAs became obsolete as quickly as they claimed a stake in healthcare: almost overnight. Because with a smartphone, you would not only have a PDA to manage your schedule or to hold your important information - you could also access the world wide web, and listen to your favourite music while doing that. So there was no need to preselect and store information that you thought could be relevant. You can just go online and find it! In the early days of the smartphone, there were only 250 million websites to go look for your information. Today, with over a billion websites, we have to put in thorough research to classify the information we found. We can now say that the ever increasing body of information that exists online does not mean it will save us more and more time. It seems quite the opposite actually.
The Instant Messenger
I would almost forget. With a smartphone, you can also make a phone call and use email. But more importantly, it paved the way for the instant messenger. And with that, you don't have to wait for another person to be available anymore. And you can send an image or a video instead of expressing at least a 1000 words. So that instant messenger is saving you a lot of time! Instant messengers however, allow for another important phenomenon that can be truly as disruptive as the PDA once was. And that phenomenon allows us to enter the era of Knowledge Technology.
Knowledge is the result of hard work: it involves cognitive and analytic processes after appropriately weighing and collecting information, and in medicine, it is also heavily mixed with professional experience. So first, we were blessed with instantly accessing information. But now, instant messaging has given us the possibility to instantly access knowledge. Thus, your instant messenger has become a new kind of Personal Digital Assistant.
And whether you have one with a powerful processor and a lot of memory, it all depends on how well you are connected.
Joost Bruggeman, MD PhD