Inspector Gadget was, by far, my favorite show growing up. It had everything: mystery, a bionic detective, an evil genius looking to take over the world, a bipedal talking dog named Brain, and, of course, Penny.
Penny was the coolest. In addition to being roughly my age at the time, she was resourceful, constantly solving capers and thwarting Dr. Claw’s devious plots—and she did this by using technology. Outfitted with a book that was remarkably similar to a tablet and a wristband that resembled a modern-day smart watch, she could talk with Brain, conduct research, and look up locations and coordinates on a digital map.
Watching Penny and Brain save the day with innovative gadgets and devices introduced me to the notion of connectivity; and, more importantly, wireless connectivity. In Inspector Gadget’s world, the wonders of technology made anything possible: you could speak to someone remotely without a telephone (and see their face while doing so), you could look up information without using a traditional book, and you could magically send and receive information with someone else.
Convenience in a post-EHR world
While there was no Dr. Claw menacing the world, even to my young mind, there were very practical applications to this type of technology. At a time when I was learning the Dewey Decimal System and attempting to navigate the card catalogue, I was thinking about how much better it would be if I had Penny’s book that, depending on what page I turned, would provide me with whatever piece of information I needed, right there at my fingertips.
It’s easy to forget how the TV shows and movies from your childhood shape your vision of the future. But, without a doubt, Inspector Gadget made me start asking one simple question that has guided much of my professional career: “Why can’t we do that?”
2016 is fast-approaching, and I still look back on that technology—which now exists in some form or fashion— and ask myself “why can’t we do that better in healthcare?” While we have mobile EHRs and smart clinical dictation technology, there is always the possibility of doing more. Penny’s devices fit her exact needs in whatever situation she was facing in that moment. There is no doubt that health IT is becoming increasingly more convenient for clinicians, but their roles and environments will continue to evolve. This means that we need to design solutions that are malleable, and can accommodate future workflow shifts.
At this juncture, most healthcare organizations have fully adopted an EHR system, and are now looking to optimize and to bridge the gaps in communication and workflows. We can’t predict how healthcare regulations and policies will change, but we can use the principles of connectivity, simplicity, and improved communication to design intelligent, knowledge-sharing applications and collaborative technologies for physicians and their patients.