I get that we adults see iPads as obnoxious public signs of personal decadence and also as a delicious toy. I only have two friends with iPads (realistically, there is no other tablet available right now), and they both call it a "toy." In contrast to my world with my two tablet-owning friends, 25% of teens own tablets. Think about it: these are not cheap devices. A teen may be making a choice between a car and a tablet. They aren't doing that for something that is just a status symbol and a toy. This is an enormous disconnect between how technology is being used by those under 18 and how it is being used by those over 18. I'm 35, and as secure as I may be now, I have at least thirty years of work ahead of me and those teens are coming for my job.
My mother was an early adopter of the personal computer; without choice the rest of the family was as well. I remember my principal pulling me out of my fourth grade class to fix the computer in another classroom. A guy in our town had a fleet of Macintosh computers in his basement and taught an after-school class were we learned how to control the computer using Basic and how to take it apart and put it back together. I recognize that many children then, and many children today, don't have the opportunity to access cutting edge technology. However successful adults of today do have the ability to give themselves that advantage. What I'm saying is that failing to give yourself that advantage is a big mistake.
However, this isn't just about keeping your job, or about keeping up with technology. This is about the massive change in how we interact with information, that those interactions matter, and that my generation has almost completely checked out. I'll give you an example of why this disconnect matters in the real world: medical establishments are currently receiving Federal stimulus to move into Electronic Medical Records (EMR). Instead of racks of paper charts, everything is in computers.
If you talk to doctors and nurses, few are happy about this. I reviewed medical charts for a living for five years. Here is what you do when you read a medical chart: you read it in order, finding the relevant information as you go along. I was specifically trained that searching just for the information I wanted was a no-no; How do you you know what is relevant? Sure, if you are a physician following a patient for kidney disease you're going to be specifically looking for test results that give you information about the kidney status. But you may not know that the patient crushed his ankle in a car accident (increases kidney workload) and has a lingering infection that can't properly be treated because it interacts with the drug he's taking for his heart disease, which is the only available drug because another heart drug interacts with his kidney medication. And you in your experience have seen four other patients on this particular combination of drugs deteriorate and die, and you think this patient might perk up if you could get all these drugs changed to a new combination. You don't know that if you don't read the chart.
Here's what the EMR does: it takes that heart information and puts it in a folder about the heart. And the ankle information in a folder about the accident. And unless you know what you are looking for and, more importantly, know that it matters to the kidney visit today, you won't see it. In at least one case the information was so disjointed that the nurses feared for patient safety and boycotted the system. One of my doctors asks me to tell her if I think there's anything she should know, since she doesn't have a chart to flip through any more. You've probably already experienced the other problem, which is talking to a health care worker's back as they interact with their computer instead of with you.
It doesn't have to be this way. The technology to give medical personnel electronic charts that have the look and feel of paper charts and have the advantages of electronic charts is already here. It isn't even cutting edge. But the people who put together the specs and standards for those charts don't know how to see things differently. We have mature technology available, and mature individuals are failing to take advantage of it.
Edited 03May2011, 6:48AM