A thought on a technology trend

Originally posted 5-19-2011:
I have been hearing about some technology trends recently that has caught my attention. I came across this article that suggested the E-readers like the Nook or Kindle are going to become obsolete due to the rise of the tablet PCs. The article also referenced a small slideshow highlighting 9 gadgets that are going obsolete due to increased Smartphone popularity.  I was surprised to see Flip video cameras and point and shoot cameras listed in there.  But the explanation for this trend makes sense - "consumers are increasingly trading single-purpose devices for multifunction gadgets. "

It is very clear the everyday electronics consumer values the convenience of having a device that has multiple functions over having many devices that can one thing very well.  As a Smartphone user myself, I totally understand and enjoy the convenience. However, I don't really use my phone for pictures, because my point and shoot camera takes much better pictures. I would prefer to take higher quality videos on a separate digital recorder than use my phone. And I'll be honest - I still use an old fashioned radio alarm clock instead of my phone to wake up in the morning. Maybe it's just a matter of preference, but there are times I am willing to give up convenience for quality with technology.

So why am I sharing these thoughts here?  I have talked to a lot of clinicians over the last few years that had many issues with the ease of use with specific healthcare software. Many of these issues seemed to be focused on EMR systems, which has surprised me because I have never done usability work for EMR's.  One time I was on vacation and heard someone mutter, "I hate using this <product>."  These uninitiated discussions with pharmacists, nurses, doctors focused how difficult it is to navigate certain applications that "do a lot of everything, but not any one thing well".

As technology continues on toward this multi-functional trend, I wonder if it is appropriate for healthcare. Sure, in one application you can do everything necessary to complete your job of providing effective and safe patient care. There aren't multiple logins and passwords to remember to make things convenient. But is it a disservice to the patients that having convenient software that does a lot of everything adequately (or inadequately), as opposed to having multiple applications where each one allows the completion of tasks in a more efficient fashion? If the complexity gets too large and the ease of use starts to deteriorate, are we then reducing the safety and quality of using the software as a tool for patient care?

I do not have a clear answer, since I am not on the front line of patient care. I can only base these thoughts on my own experience with my Smartphone and other devices that help me do more than one thing.  Food for thought...but I would like to hear any feelings from care givers on this trend.