New information technologies are no longer created with the needs of large organizations foremost in mind. Instead, these emerging technologies—such as tablets, touch screens and smartphones—are increasingly designed for people like you and me. This growing tendency for new technologies to emerge first in the consumer market is rapidly and profoundly transforming all facets of our lives, and raises several daunting questions for Royal College Fellows on how we carry out our work:
- What new technologies—such as e-books and social media tools—hold open the most promise for teaching and learning?
- What steps should we take to incorporate new mobile applications so that we can improve medical education and enhance our practices?
- What are the consequences to our rules, standards and principles if we merge consumer-driven information technologies into our education programs?
- How do we make sure we can integrate and use new tech tools without jeopardizing patient safety?
We know some applications pose unacceptable risks to Fellows and patients
Why this scrupulous consideration? Professionals in a range of industries outside of healthcare use applications that run on their smartphones and tablets to perform a variety of business and administrative functions. We’re different. Medical practitioners who use mainstream IT applications, such as Dropbox cloud storage and Google Docs, could open themselves up to unacceptable risks related to privacy, security, liability and patient care.
The risks are real. Many of you have probably heard the recent report of the teenage girl from New Jersey who invented an inexpensive portable electrocardiogram that transmits data via cellular networks. While her advance shows the astounding promise of consumerized IT for healthcare—especially to patients in remote and underdeveloped regions—it also reveals the pitfalls that can come with adopting new advances prematurely. For instance, what if the app’s wireless protocol was changed but its code wasn’t updated to reflect the change? Or even more simply, what if the application appeared to be working properly but wasn’t?
We’ve built several reliable applications for Fellows
We at the Royal College have set rules, standards and principles that govern how we incorporate and use advanced IT applications. We’ve relied on these protocols to make investments that improve our IT infrastructure and create applications that enable Fellows to access our organization’s wealth of information easily, swiftly and from anywhere.
For instance, we launched in 2011 the first ICRE app to make it possible for Fellows to stay completely up to date on the latest developments at the International Conference on Residency Education and the Simulation Summit. This year, we’ve enhanced the app and are launching an iPad version in time for ICRE 2012. We’ve also just released an iPhone app for MAINPORT that is completely secure. We’ve developed a mobile application for our CanMEDS Teaching Springboard for emergency medicine, which will be available soon. And we’re putting the finishing touches on several more apps that we’ll integrate into one mobile platform.
Our applications not only provide Fellows and residents with versatile new resources they can use to learn and stay informed. These successes also enabled us to educate ourselves about the best methods to build and integrate new IT tools, and uncover better ways to equip the next generation of physicians and surgeons with the knowledge and skills they need.
We’re set to launch an innovation and technology task force in 2013
This work is just the start of our efforts to make the most of the possibilities of mobile technologies for the benefit of Fellows. A case in point: the rapidly evolving consumerization of information technology has inspired us to organize a task force that focuses on innovation and technology, and that is driven by the needs and views of Fellows. Under the leadership of Dr. Susan Brien—our director of research, innovation and scholarship—the task force will bring together Fellows from a range of sectors and disciplines to gain a clearer understanding of how rapid advances in information technologies are changing healthcare and the steps we as Fellows must take to keep pace.
Your participation in the coming task force will be vital to its success. To start, we at the Royal College need your help to identify the subjects on which it will focus. Should we:
- Explore, understand and validate claims put forward by tech companies
- Share our experiences on the use and applicability of new technologies
- Make suggestions to industry players to concentrate on areas of critical need
- Review the latest technological advances launched by players in the healthcare industry
Do you have feedback or comments? Please use the comment box below to share your views with Dr. Brien and other Fellows about the optimal focus of the task force. Your active and ongoing engagement in the deliberations and ultimate recommendations of the task force will enable the Royal College to take full advantage of mobile technologies.
The future is indeed exciting. We can use advanced IT applications to improve teaching methods and resources, enhance the learning experiences of residents and enable all Fellows to improve their practices and deliver better care to patients. Let’s embrace that future and its potential with confidence and enthusiasm.
As always, please feel free contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share with me your insights and suggestions on the matters I’ve raised in this message.
Andrew Padmos, BA, MD, FRCPC, FACP
Chief Executive Officer