Future Column – v201309

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Future Thoughts Now Column

by Scott Erdley

Senior Editor


Erdley, S. (2013). Future Column – v201309. Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI), 17 (3), Available at  http://ojni.org/issues/?p=2843


erdleyI have become increasingly aware of the importance of the ‘human touch’ on many levels. While this is not in and of itself a startling revelation for many people it is, for me, a key ingredient to the interactions of humans and technology in society, in general, and health care in particular. I use a personal example to illustrate this point.

My wife, a very intelligent and wonderful person, has a personal philosophy that incorporates not only the human touch with respect to care (she is a respiratory therapist) but also with technology. I call it the ‘it just should work’ (isjw) concept. This is not a new concept, sure, but for me it is one of increasing importance. Having been trained by Microsoft and Apple, among others, over the years I believe I can trouble shoot most common technology problems. This is not the point of using technology (as my wife reminds me). ‘It should just work’ she says to me. ‘Turn it on and use’ (tio&u) is her corollary of the ‘isjw’ concept.

She finds working with technology especially troubling because the business of patient care does not allow for things to NOT work (or its corollary – NOT work with other technology). Care in an acute environment is a very carefully crafted and orchestrated interaction between humans and technology. If the EHR does not work (and this includes hardware and software) then her day and or shift is already behind the proverbial eight ball with limited chances of recovery to a ‘normal’ day. The fact she cannot tio&u is a very real problem for not only her but also the vast majority of health professionals in many different environments. The need for the human touch, though, comes into play, in the form of tech support and or colleague consultation, trying to remedy these sorts of tech problems. Without consulting statistics my guess is for the vast majority of human-machine / system dysfunction tech support (aka human touch) works. For some reason, though, it is the few instances of ‘not working’ we tend to remember.

My current position of employment involves a high use of technology; I work with high-fidelity mannequins (robotic dolls after a fashion I suppose) as tools for engaging health care students in the process of becoming caring and competent health care professionals. It is interesting when the technology just doesn’t work; at times the scenarios may take a left turn instead of a right one. This can be frustrating for all involved (the techs, the learners and or the faculty working with the students). However, these sorts of events provide insight and discussion points about reality, perhaps more so than a scenario without such hiccups. The learners hopefully learn an additional valuable lesson about dealing with life beyond the intent of the simulation experience.

To sum up, yes, I am now of the isjw camp. I want to tio&u each and every time (similar to using a car I suppose). However, human-computer interactions, like life, are rarely as smooth; detours and surprises abound. It is the human touch, this uniqueness, which allows for learning from these dysfunctional instances. It is, in fact, life reminding each of us our importance, and essentialness, in this increasingly technical world.

Feel free to share thoughts, opinions and personal perceptions regarding any of the above with me personally at erdley@buffalo.edu and or on the OJNI website!

Until next time – Scott

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