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Interesting Trends in Digital Medicine

Now let's turn to a couple of interesting trends in digital medicine. Katie Hafner, a journalist at the New York Times (and wife of Bob Wachter, MD, of the University of California San Francisco), wrote a very interesting article on the resurgence of scribes in clinics and hospitals.[5] This is an outgrowth of the keyboard/electronic medical record (EMR) mediation, which has led to reduced contact with patients. The response from many of the physicians who are using scribes was striking, with one physician calling it a "life-changer" and another adding that it restored "joy in the practice of medicine."

The distraction problem caused by EMRs has been a major complaint of both physicians and patients, but the trend of physicians hiring 10,000+ scribes in the United States suggests a new, offsetting expense (that is mounting) to preserve intimate contact. This finding of markedly improved satisfaction reports from both doctors and patients (which I had also written about in my book, ) will be important to watch. Anything that makes life better for doctors and patients deserves careful consideration.

The biggest meeting in the world each year is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. This month, well over 150,000 people attended the meeting, making our medical meetings look like a classroom clique. The big-deal gadgets at this year's meeting were wearable devices connecting the "Internet of Things,"[6] including Google Glass and many other Glass-type upstarts, as well as all kinds of new smart watches, wearable-device clothing, and a sea of other technologies.

WIRED magazine's January 2014 cover story, "Why Wearable Tech Will Be as Big as the Smartphone,"[7] previews, at least in part, what was rolled out at CES. What is the relevance to medicine? All of these wearables -- clothes, watches, socks, glasses -- can be loaded with biosensors for tracking various physiologic metrics. So the "Internet of Medical Things" is gradually getting built; stay tuned as these wearables, which connect to smartphones, get "medicalized."

If you've been following me on Twitter (), all of this may seem old-hat. But for the rest of you, I'll try to pick the topics of most interest and include them in my monthly Medscape dispatch. Thanks so much for your feedback and support of our site.

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