Hospital Room Shows Lots of Opportunities for Software Industry in Future

    April 11, 2005

People ask me what the software industry’s future is. All I do is look around this hospital room (which is in one of the richest hospitals in the world) and I see tons of opportunities.

The patient’s chart, for instance, is all paper and hand-done. How many inefficiencies (and opportunities for mistakes) are there there? Tons.

Then I look at the machines hooked up here. There’s a blood transfusion device. An IV device. An oxygen monitor. A heart-rate monitor. None of these machines talk with each other. None report back to the patient’s chart. After all, how could they? That’s all paper stored in a binder by the door of the room.

The whole wing runs by nurses who visit every 20 minutes or so. They manually check on the patients. First they check the chart to see what is prescribed for each patient.

In every place I see inefficiencies. Things that could be improved with better technologies. Opportunities for mistakes that could be removed.

“Technology is too expensive,” I can hear lots saying. Well, how expensive is a malpractice lawsuit? I just watched a blood transfusion. What if a doctor wrote the wrong blood type in the patient’s chart? Why are we still doing things in an analog fashion? Why isn’t there a video camera here to verify what was done to a patient? Why isn’t RFID being used to verify that the right medication is being distributed to the right patient? Why doesn’t each room have a monitor for nurses to watch so that they can check on the patient’s vital signs without entering the room? That’d make them far more efficient, remove waiting times for really serious mishaps (the machine putting fluid into a patient makes the same beep whether it’s out of fluid or has a blockage in the line).

I see all sorts of opportunities to make medical care both more personal as well as remove risk of malpractice lawsuits. Each medical chart should have attached to it 24-hour video of the patient’s care so that it can be verified later on whether the patient really received proper care. That alone would reduce lawsuits and cost.

Insurance companies should start insisting on improvements to the medical system. Our health care costs are going up every year far faster than the cost of living increases yet we’re still putting patient charts on paper. We’re still not making machines that talk to each other. We still aren’t putting new technologies like RFID into use. We have better display systems in our airports than in our hospitals.

And what’s scary is that this hospital is one of the richest in the world. Only a few miles from Bill Gates’ home and from Microsoft’s headquarters (and he’s listed at the top of the donator’s list here).

Why do I work in software? Why do I see growth opportunities for the software industry? All I have to do is look around a hospital room for a while.

What opportunities do you see?

Robert Scoble is the founder of the Scobleizer blog. He works as’s Vice President of Media Development.

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