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The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine's Computer Age
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The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine's Computer Age

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  931 ratings  ·  85 reviews
While modern medicine produces miracles, it also delivers care that is too often unsafe, unreliable, unsatisfying, and impossibly expensive. For the past few decades, technology has been touted as the cure for all of healthcare's ills.

But medicine stubbornly resisted computerization - until now. Over the past five years, thanks largely to billions of dollars in federal inc
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 1st 2015 by McGraw-Hill Companies
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Eileen Chamberlain I found it really interesting. The breadth of health systems covered was excellent. I don't think the good doctor believes that the systems will ever …moreI found it really interesting. The breadth of health systems covered was excellent. I don't think the good doctor believes that the systems will ever replace people, and like you I agree with him, but in our ever constant striving to reduce the input of humans we may hurt people along the way. But that's in every aspect of our lives really.

What worries me is the overburdensome systems in place today that are not providing the safeguards for clinicians (and we patients), even though they claim to be doing just that.(less)

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Måns Magnusson
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Pinpoints a lot of the problems with EHR (Electronic Health Record) systems. In Europe, we have even more problems trying to introduce American systems that don't fit our health care system.

Some highlights that I remember from the top of my head:

- Alarm fatigue: The system gives you so many alarms that you don't see the important ones. If a system or device does not make an alarm when something goes bad, the manufacturer is responsible. But there is no responsibility of having alarms go off with
Jun 22, 2015 rated it liked it
This was an informative book, albeit one whose scope is much narrower than I originally thought. After all, 'digital' encompasses much more than just EHRs, which is the real focus of Digital Doctor. On the other hand, I didn't know just how large a role EHRs actually play: Turns out they are absolutely central to the functioning of modern medical facilities.

Many of the issues and opportunities Wachter explores apply equally well to other aspects of the digitization of healthcare, including the
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good mix of incidents and analyses of the impact of the increasing use of technology, especially of electronic health records, in medicine.
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Technology will transform the healthcare sector – this has been the promise for many years, yet in many cases it has been a costly, backward step.

In the world where everyone can be a home doctor thanks to Google, it can be easy to forget just how dependent hospitals and the medical world are on information technology. Yet it has not been plain sailing for healthcare professionals, who have been often slaves to a very expensive, inflexible machine.

This book looks at the great march of technology
Bobby  Title
Aug 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: medicine
I am not in the medical field, nor am I involved with IT in any way, other than an interest in them. I have loved all of Abraham Verghese's books and when I heard BookTV's presentation of Wachter's book and Berghese's moderating Wachter's presentation, I knew I would find this book to my liking.

It certainly was as interesting as I expected it to be. But I was rather surprised with myself over my gut reactions: After I started reading the book on day one, I found myself lying in bed that night th
Vernon Smith
Apr 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An amazing book written by an amazing physician. I can easily see why he is currently referred to as the most influential doctor. Bob Wachter is a storyteller; able to weave an understandable tale around some very complex topics. He is self-depricating in his analysis of the current Health IT environment while clearly still possessing an immense depth in understanding of the topic. He concludes that while the current health IT offerings are poor, they are better than what we had before. He encou ...more
Jim Gleason
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
book review by Steve Okonek:
Have you ever left a medical appointment thinking your doctor interacted more with her computer screen than you? Health care’s long immunity to computers had been remarkable when compared to other industries, until we entered the 21st Century. Now it too has fallen under the spell that digital technology improves the performance of everything it touches.
UCSF’s Chair of the Department of Medicine, Robert Wachter explores the good, bad and repugnant of we patients beco
Jonna Higgins-Freese
Jul 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Interesting analysis of the role of ACA spending on IT (quoting former ONC Director Brailer saying that he would not have spent money on subsidies to digitize offices but on "standards, interoperability, a 'Geek Squad' to help with training and implementation, and creating a cloud-based 'medical Internet'" (18)

In 2008 only 17% of med offices had basic EHR! (12)
1. Expenses would be borne by independent physician practices (provide 60% of US patient care), but benefits would accrue to others, sin
Chris Weatherburn
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine's Computer Age by Robert M. Wachter

Good account of modern day health care and the requirements for digital to be implemented. Provides balanced arguments of the risks and benefits of digital implementation. Summarises some (mainly US) history including Barack Obama and President Bush pledges to fix this. Touches on large issues in the field of clinical informatics such as interoperability and the rise of some companies such as EPIC
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Pallav Sharda
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Most of the books that focus on innerworkings of American healthcare system hover around history, politics and whats-wrong-today perspectives. They are boring, esp. for outsiders.

This book is entertaining. It reads more like a TV sitcom - describing characters, incidents. So it's different enough in that perspective alone to warrant a read.

The history and issues are explained (as usual) - so that may be repetitive for some. Interesting add-on flavor is the frequent dives into the culture in medi
D.C. Lozar
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a Family Practice Physician deeply concerned about the interposition of technology between my profession and the patients I care for, I found Robert Wachter's, "The Digital Doctor," highly informative and thought-provoking. We stand on the cusp of a new age in medicine, one that is both exciting and dangerous. Mr. Wachter did a fantastic job of showing both sides of this growing debate in a way that allowed the reader to develop their own bias and provided supporting evidence for each argumen ...more
Erlend Skaga
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Unfortunately I was disappointed by the book. It takes 100 pages to go through the invention of patient records and how previous radiology rounds functioned etc. until todays systems, which seems far more exhaustive than necessary in a book trying to address the new computational technology in medicine. It further elaborates extensively in one major mistake in which a patient was harmed due to human and technological errors, before it discusses some upsides and downsides of technology and AI in ...more
I feel compelled to point out that the free excerpt of this book covers not only the most interesting part, but also has a satisfying epilogue to the case study that is not included in the printed book.

hhhh. I read the excerpt online and found it so compelling, I bought the book off the back of it. And there are some great takeaways, such as alarm fatigue, but overall I found it American-centric and a little dull. And a little technophobic. Pre-emptively defensive, perhaps. Some of it is e.g. t
Satrughan Kumar Singh
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
TL;DR Summary : "When it comes to healthcare, writing code is the easiest piece of the puzzle"

Lengthier Version:
As a software engineer reading it, in an age where anyone who can write afew decent lines of code is considered a rockstar, this book humbled me.

It showed me enough to get me to understand that the most challenging problems of our time wont be solved just by dumping technologies at it, but by supporting it with proper policies and processes.

It showed me that although the ability to w
Daniel Chen
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Engrossing narrative that describes the past, present, and future of digital medicine and how we can take the lessons learnt from the implementation of EHRs and apply them to other telemedicine technologies. Wachter spends a good chunk of the book describing the history of EHRs and the pitfalls it has gone through. Albeit far from perfect, the technology gives insight to the future of how technology intertwines with physician-patient interactions.

Wachter also highlights the different problems im
Oct 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
I spent a big portion of my working life writing computer software and performing computer-adjacent occupations. I never wrote any medical records code. I'm interested in the growing use of EHR (electronic health records). Thus far, the software is apparently somewhere between difficult to use and downright harmful. It doesn't seem to me that doctors should be spending their time wrestling with poorly designed software. Doctors should be doctoring, not engaged in activities of data entry or task ...more
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Excellent presentation of the benefits and the dangers of modern Health IT. I appreciated the numerous examples given throughout the book to support thoughts or opinions. The plethora of interviews and differing opinions gave the book an overall unbiased look at current Health IT as well as the future of it. I appreciated the author's attempt at instilling the idea of medicine as being human. Although robots and digitization may help with safety and quality, medicine still requires a large part ...more
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thorough and interesting explanation for the layperson who wants to understand the role tech plays in the modern the health industry and how it got to be (especially in the US) so wacky. Spoiler: the road to hell is paved with ideas that sounded good at the time.

This is not one of those books where the author harps on and on trying to convince you of the same one or two ideas. It's complicated stuff, without simple solutions, and the author does a great job of explaining how it works, what's bro
Dec 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was both fascinating and too close to reality. In reading it, the scenarios had a very true and personal ring to them. People often complain that health care providers (physicians, nurses, etc) spend too much time in front of a computer. This is both colleagues and patients/family members saying this, and it’s true. But it’s a double-edged sword. If you aren’t dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s, you haven’t done your job and there’s no reimbursement. But if you are, you’re not spen ...more
Jason Hamm
Nov 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Wachter gave a great synopsis of the state of technology in the medical field. Great examples and anecdotal stories to go along with his opinion.

He also gives his version of what the future in health care is going to look like.

This was an interesting book, but wasn't a page turner for me.
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone should read

A fantastic book on the evolution of IT in healthcare. Should be interesting to everyone, even if you're not in IT or Healthcare. Wachter addresses some of the key challenges and promises of tech in healthcare with a lot of interesting stories, and he does it all with style and wit.
Christopher Benassi
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
The 1st half of the book is a definite "5 stars"...very well researched and provides the reader with a great foundation in EMRs and the legislation/regulation

The second half of the book is maybe "3 stars" - it is much more qualitative and feels redundant to many of the points made earlier in the book.

Overall, the first half alone makes it a great read and I would highly recommend
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Robert Wachter weaves together the history of healthcare IT with innovations and pitfalls that happened along the way. All while giving us a report from the frontlines of EHR adoption and implementation. Wachter tells us where we are, how we got there and where we could possibly go in the future. The Digital Doctor is a must read for anyone in the healthcare IT industry.
Joe Born
Jul 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
My goal in reading this book was to get a feel for how and why technology adoption has been the way it has in medicine, the author did an excellent job of explaining the complexity and uniqueness of medicine in this regard. I gained a much better understanding of the history, challenges, and opportunities of technology in medicine, reading this book accomplished exactly what I hoped it would.
Austin Dean
Apr 26, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Frustrating but Eye Opening

The book and it’s presentation was amazing. As a member of the healthcare tech world the problems this book highlights are frustrating and also eye opening the progress and the lack therefore we have made in healthcare tech. Hopefully the dream presented in the final chapters can come forth.
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I think the author wrote this book as a "letter" of sorts to his fellow healthcare providers. . . Like a "Dear Future Doctor or Nurse" time capsule letter. Very informative. Very interesting. Very thought provoking. ...more
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful overview of digital’s impact on medicine, the patient experience, and the clinician’s efficacy. Learned about the impact of HITECH, the ONC, and the contributions of David Blumenthal. Great perspective on the future of medicine in the digital age.
Saket Saurabh
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Pick your copy today if you are a believer in tech driven healthcare, if a cynic then it makes even more sense. Very detailed account but is not overdone. The author did have access to people who matter.
Oct 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Entertaining expose of modern healthcare IT, but it reads as a dated academic physician in a modern system reminiscing of times past. Probably most interesting for recent internal medicine resident graduates who lived through the anecdotes first hand.
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