Digital technology permeates our lives. Smartphones that operate like mini-computers give us easy access to email, news, bank accounts and social networking apps. Even our well-being is in the game: Many of us use digital devices and apps to track our movement, sleep, blood sugar levels or heart rates.
“We’ve embraced this transformation in every regard — identifying ‘digitally driven’ as one of three pillars in the new integrated strategic plan that will inform and guide our strategy for the future of Stanford Medicine,” Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine, wrote in his letter introducing the issue.
An integral part of that strategy is ensuring that the human touch, an essential part of health care, not be lost, he said. To that end, Stanford Medicine has embraced a mission that takes advantage of the best elements of the latest technology to ensure a health care future that is both proactive and personalized.
Several stories in the issue explore ways clinicians are using high-tech tools to improve care. For example, more clinicians are tapping electronic health records to gather up-to-date information about disease and treatments, and using the technology to improve communication with patients and each other.
The issue also examines ways artificial intelligence, machine learning and technology have created opportunities for innovation in medical education, diagnostics and clinical skill assessment, and to better understand what makes our bodies and minds tick:
- Four programs highlight how Stanford Medicine uses digital technology to fill in gaps in care: An emergency room physician uses tablet computers to train community health care workers in underserved areas of Haiti and India; radiologists transformed holograms to facilitate more precise removal of diseased breast tissue; heart doctors are collaborating with Apple on the MyHeart Counts app and program that they hope will advance cardiovascular research — and get us off the couch; and researchers developed an app that uses Google Glass to help children on the autism spectrum better read facial expressions.
- A San Jose high school student worked with mentors at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab and the School of Medicine to design a software program that measures surgical skills to fine-tune training and provides real-time feedback to surgeons.
- Many physicians have moved past early frustrations about electronic health records to take full advantage of their ability to enable better collaboration with each other and with patients to improve care. Also, a national symposium on EHRs found physicians brainstorming ways to update health-record technology to enhance clinical decision-making.
- One researcher creates digital interventions for use in our cars, homes and workplaces with the aim of empowering us to champion our own mental well-being.
- A Stanford neuroscientist and his colleagues are building a virtual hippocampus to gain a better understanding of the area of the brain that helps us form and retain memories, and to find better treatments for a host of neurological conditions.
- A surgeon, educator and innovator shares her inspiration for developing sensor-enabled training tools, designed to advance the use of touch in diagnostics, for students and trainees.
This issue also includes an excerpt from the autobiography of transgender neurobiologist Ben Barres, who died last year. In the book, Barres describes the emotional process of transitioning to male in midlife.
In addition, the story of an infant born with an extremely rare genetic disorder at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford illuminates the difficult decisions doctors and families face when such conditions are diagnosed during pregnancy.