Newborn Son, Not-So-New Technology Realities
Zone Leader (and recent father of his newborn son), John Vester, looks into the medical industry - shocked at the reality he saw from a technology perspective.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
three weeks ago, i was able to witness the birth of my son, first-hand. just a matter of feet from his arrival placed next to his beautiful mother, i loved the experience of watching him make his first appearance - voicing his first sound, taking his first breath and making his first movements as he entered our lives. it was an amazing experience.
the 39 weeks leading up to his birth was a spectacular event for me. one that could fill volumes of blog posts or chapters in a book.
however, this article is going in a different direction. instead, i am going to focus on the not-so-new technologies that i encountered during both the periodic visits to the ob/gyn and the delivery at the hospital when our son was born.
what i expected
understanding that our prior children were born 18 and 16 years ago, i fully expected a great deal of changes to have been put in place since that time. i mean, just take a minute to recall the technologies you were using in your daily life nearly 20 years ago.
my expectations were exceeded when viewing the way-cool 3d ultrasound and the ability to perform so many measurements and metrics on our son, months before he was born. the tour of the maternity area was very impressive, with the delivery room designed like a luxury suite for a weekend getaway. in addition to the amenities of the room, there was a dual screen monitor which allowed me to watch my son's heartbeat, his mother's contractions and her heartbeat as well. i was quite impressed.
what i didn't expect were things that could be way better, but simply are not. it was almost as if the medical industry had opted to lay low on some of the technologies which could make their lives better.
lack of biometric authentication
what surprised me the most was the fact that every time a medical professional spent time with us - whether it be a room at the doctor's office or in the maternity suite - before they were able to use the computer, they had to login using their id and password. as you might expect, the password requirements were stringent - requiring several unique passwords before a previous password could be used, at least one special character, mixed upper and lower case characters and a significant password length.
i asked our ob/gyn how many times he logs in and logs out during a given work day. he looked at me and paused, his stare spoke volumes - almost to say, "this guy feels my pain." he told me, i would not believe the number of times he has to press the key sequence to bring up the login form and manually enter his id and very unique password before being able to focus on the needs of his customer - in this case, us.
i honestly don't get why biometric authentication is not in place. earlier this year, i was fortunate to receive a new macbook pro, which includes a biometric pad. i decided to enable it for my personal use and i absolutely love being able to unlock my machine by simply placing my finger on the pad. rarely do i have to enter my id and password now. it is fast and easy ... a huge time saver.
just imagine how much better it would be for every medical professional we visited those 39 weeks to use their finger instead of a login id and password.
applications designed for yesterday
throughout the pregnancy for my newborn son, i also watched as information was entered into various applications at both the ob/gyn and at the maternity suite. in both cases, i felt like time had stood still when i saw the applications which were in use. while i did not expect to see the latest front-end technologies in place, i also did not expect to see dated-form designs and elements running on some type of client/server architecture.
i watched in awe as haunting memories of years ago raced back into the forefront of my mind. reach for the mouse, click on this area of the screen, move hand over to keyboard and type a bunch before repeating the cycle again. go find something, then do a bunch of clicks intertwined with a lot of taps on the keyboard - sprinkled with some serious paragraphs from time to time. i honestly felt like it was a new form of dance, restricted from the wrist to the ends of the medical professional's finger tips. instead of calling it the macarena, let's call it the docarena.
image how much better all of this could be if the applications utilized a queue design, to automatically present the workload to the medical professional. using our case as an example, i assume that there are some common paths that exist during a pregnancy - of which 80% of the cases fall into. think about the time saved from the team being able to step through the cycle driven by the application - instead of making the healthcare provided search and find the task they need to complete.
with all the responsive choices from a ux perspective, why limit the client use to a standard personal computer? how about letting the team members decide if a tablet, a touch screen or even a mobile device is their system of choice? with the responsive design and queuing technology, let the application drive the complexities so that the focus can be focused on the customer - which is why most entered the medical profession in the first place. the systems need to become the workhorse - limiting the amount of time required by the medical professionals to use them.
of course, there are exceptions to every situation, including pregnancies. however, if the majority of cases follow an improved flow, the overall benefits will strongly outweigh any challenges with exception flows and processes required.
while the security from an end-user perspective appears to be tightly enforced, the security on the personal computers themselves has continued to be an issue in the medical industry. this point has been proven with the number of devices at medical institutions that were impacted by the wannacry ransomware attack alone. the main cause for this issue is due to either computers running on older operating system versions or using operating systems that are not up to date with the latest security patches. both scenarios leading to a vulnerable situation.
i am surprised this is the case, given the amount of capital behind most medical professions. with a near monopolistic reality, alternatives for those seeking medical care do not really exist. sure, there are different providers and medical facilities, but this is similar to a world where every computer runs the exact same operating system. there may be different brands of computers, but the underlying operating system is exactly the same. my metaphor here is that the medical industry has been able to successfully set the prices and the standards. since there really is not an alternative - all the providers are happy to charge similar levels for their services.
with such a positive financial stance, i find it difficult to understand why the appropriate budget and staff are not in place to make sure these devices are less vulnerable to attack.
is the medical industry ready?
while reading about the challenges with the medical industry from an it perspective, one article questioned if the medical industry was ready for technical changes to put themselves in a better position. almost as if they are scared to venture away from their current technology investments.
looking through the concerns i noted in this article:
the overall productivity gained from using biometrics yields a quick win for cutting down on the frequent times the industry pauses while the medical professional provides an id and password.
when i have delivered applications, which provide an innovation to the customer, they are the first to give praise toward keeping their best interests in mind - especially when it leads to more time with their customer.
there is truly no reason why any organization would not be ready to be in a state where their systems are secured and protected, matching the efforts made to secure end-user identities.
the 39-week journey that led to my son being born provided a plethora of beautiful emotions. three weeks later, i continue to find ways to fall in love with my newborn son over and over again. in a similar manner, i truly appreciate every advancement that made our pregnancy a success, but my experienced mind as an it professional has to wonder if there are some much-needed technical improvements for the industry as a whole.
have a really great day!
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.