The heart of the IT dilemma in Medicine

Healthcare is an area which is slow to adopt digital technology in its everyday tasks. Comparatively, areas like banking and the airline industry have long adopted digitisation and a cloud environment in its infrastructure. One may ask why?

The answer is fairly simple if you think about it. Medical education.

Medical education is stuck in a twilight zone, where teaching methods have hardly budged over the decades. Believing the saying that “you do not fix what is not broken” or “That’s how I’ve learnt it!’ is prevalent in the medical fraternity. Therefore, trying to infuse new technologies in the hospitals today are met with firm resistance. Doctors are just not trained to be comfortable using a computer in patient-doctor interactions. They are not trained to use e-prescription in their medical schools. In fact, pen and paper continues to rule in most medical schools.

Even primary students are being exposed to new classroom technologies using apps and digitization to its fullest potential to enhance learning. This mantra needs to be adopted by medical schools if we are to achieve the potential of digital technologies in healthcare.

Submerging medical students in an environment which utilizes IT will only enhance its use in their future medical careers. In the same vein, hospitals have to plan ahead and be wary of the changing times in healthcare. Patient centric approaches and preventive medicine will be prominent in the coming decade and thus formulating and adopting technologies that assist this will only be wise.

Playground danger

Malaysia has lots of shopping malls. Within these malls, children’s playgrounds are also springing up. They can certainly be a place to keep your children occupied while you shop. However, within these playground areas lurk an unseen danger.

Microbes transmitting diseases often lurk in abundance, clinging to the paraphernalia associated with these places. The swings, the carousel, the slides, the ball pool and the list is endless. The chances of picking up a nasty infection from these places is rather high.

Playgrounds are not monitored by the authorities for cleanliness. Eateries and even kindergartens are often under scrutiny, but these public play areas has escaped strict surveillance. Many do not even have basic precautions, for example hand scrubs. No one even knows how often these places are disinfected and cleaned.

Many parents can attest to the fact that children often can fall ill after a visit to a public playground. However, establishing a relationship between the two is almost impossible, unless an epidemic arises in a particular area.

So my advice to parents are the following.

1. Ensure that proper sanitizing facilities, e.g. hand scrubs are available at the entrance with a strict rule that all must perform a hand scrub upon entry.
2. Cleaning maintenance schedules must be publicly displayed.
3. Compulsory checks on body temperature
4. Limiting the number of children at any one time

Without these four compulsory criteria, I feel that playgrounds are flouting rules in ensuring the safety of our children from infectious diseases.

Rogue guards : Medicine is not too different

The recent spate of rogue guards robbing the places they were meant to protect was actually waiting to happen. Robbery attempts were always a constant feature in our news. Many of these perpetrators are still at large. It is only a matter of time before they infiltrated the security companies, many of whom are struggling to survive.

There are many “rogue” problems in medicine. From traditional healers to miracle medicines, we are never short on grandiose promises to insecure patients, many of whom have incurable illnesses. It was not too long ago that the Ministry of Health finally issued a warning regarding a traditional product which reportedly caused excessive weight gain and kidney failure. There are also many out there claiming to have miraculous medicinal properties. Some have been extremely meticulous in detail, often securing the testimonies of a few and displaying a legitimate facade, to entice patients into believing in its authenticity.

Unfortunately, although the product is registered, the way it is marketed is highly unregulated. It appeals to many when you claim of miracle cures, without any ill effects. They bank on terms like “natural herbs”, often regurgitating complicated Latin names that not many would even bother to check. Perhaps it is the manner of which they are marketed that is highly unethical. Their total disregard for patient safety is underlined by the fact that much of these concoctions are taken at the patient’s own risk. There is no framework on which to file litigious complaints, should something untoward happens.

Often times, it is death that jolts most people alive. Unfortunately, in medicine, the bullet is often times not apparent and leaves little trace, as opposed to the gory scenes in a shooting incident.

Doctors need salvation

Doctor : A job where one is presented with an opportunity to meet many different people daily. Individuals with stories to tell, each unique. Young and old, men and women, families and friends and from all walks of life. These are the individuals we term patients and the interaction , a medical history taking.

History taking: Perhaps it is the terminology that gives medical students a stereotypical belief that it is the most mundane of tasks. The process becomes robotic and restrictive. The preoccupation with medical facts has drowned out the humanity in such interactions.

Non-compliance: An almost “dirty” word in the medical fraternity. Patients are given the look of consternation and is relegated to a lesser class. The demeanor changes and in unfortunate instances, hostility ensues . The stories behind non compliance often goes unheard. The heroism and stoic charisma in dealing with life situations is painted with the guilt of not following “doctor’s orders”.

Some patients fear doctors, not because of the needles, but the very person that they have to turn to for help. Sturdy individuals become submissive , some taking barrages of criticisms, not normally tolerated.

Perhaps when we are at heaven’s door, we get a chance to see replays of our naivety behind closed doors. The lessons that we never learnt from those that walked in through the door.

So the next patient that walks into your busy clinic could be another chance at your ‘salvation’.