The ability to store and retrieve information external to the mind
stimulated the greatest advancement in human knowledge.
Storing and retrieving information external to the mind, is a uniquely
human activity. It is the foundation upon which all of our scientific
and medical progress is built.
Gutenburg's perfection of movable type, preceded modern healthcare.
Movable type allowed more people to store and retrieve information
than ever before, and seeded the growth of medical knowledge.
The "Technical Century"
"The greatest technological revolution of the past century was
not in information and communication and computing at all; it was
In 1899 the "Information Age" was already well under way.
In 1822, Charles Babbage proposed building a machine called the
"Difference Engine" to automatically calculate mathematical tables.
The Difference Engine was only partially completed when Babbage
conceived the idea of another, more sophisticated machine called
an "Analytical Engine". In 1876, only five years after Babbage's
death, an obscure inventor called George Barnard Grant exhibited
a "Difference Engine" of his own in the US.
In 1899 approximately 2,500 automobiles were manufactured. In the
same year two bicycle mechanics, were making key discoveries about
the requirements of controlled flight that would enable them to
invent the airplane only 4 years later.
In the previous 20 years the number of electrical generating plants
had grown from 1 to 2,000 in the US alone. In 1901 there was a telephone
for every 10 homes in the US. A number that grew by leaps and bounds,
and the instrument transformed the way people live and exchange
information. The telephone accelerated the progress started by the
telegraph, by knitting together the world into a vast interlocked
web of people sharing information. Radio would appear within a generation
accelerating the process even further.
In contrast the life expectancy in the US was still only 47. Today
it is 77. A hundred years ago healthcare practitioners were just
beginning to accept the Germ Theory of disease. Anesthesia and Disinfection
were commonplace, although in a form not nearly as sophisticated
as today, but beyond those advances much of healthcare was medieval.
In the past century healthcare has changed beyond recognition. The
list of accomplishments is staggering.
So, 100 years ago we didn't have an Internet or cell phones, but
we did have telephones for instant communication; we didn't have
747's but we were learning to fly; we didn't have TV but almost
anyone had access to newspapers and books. We didn't have modern
healthcare, and here there is no "but". 100 years ago modern healthcare
did not exist. It is fair to say that the greatest revolution of
the past 100 years and into the foreseeable future, is in Health
and not IT.
However it is also fair to say that with out the revolution in
IT the revolution in Healthcare could never have occurred.
Technology Advances in Healthcare
Technology in direct patient care will continue to expand through
the use of mobile computing devices and dramatically affect how
healthcare is practiced in the future. These mobile computing devices
will transform data into valuable information at the point-of-care.
Nurses can help support the implementation of mobile computing devices
that provide value to the practice of healthcare, and promote patient
care delivery, related outcomes, and overall satisfaction.
The "Century of Health"
IT has facilitated all of the advancements in healthcare. And now
the pace is picking up: mobile computing can only accelerate the
pace of progress. The "Age of Health" is here, but it is dependent
on the effective storage and retrieval of information at the point-of-care.
Mobile computing is the Future of Healthcare.
Notes: (1) Frederick Allen, American Heritage of
Invention & Technology, Winter 2000-Volume 15 /Number 3