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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

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  573 Ratings  ·  62 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 Education
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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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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
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
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sundhed
Wachter fokuserer på EPJ, men har også noget om de fleste andre betydningsfulde nye sundhedsteknologiske opfindelser, interventioner. Han skriver godt og fremstår meget nuanceret og vidende. Bogen kan anbefales stærkt til alle, der arbejder med sundhed.
De første kapitler fokuserer på de forskellige måder, hvorpå lægers opmærksomhed er blevet vendt fra patienten mod data, maskiner, andet. Dette er generelt relevant, men er det især, fordi EPJ nu ofte opfattes og omtales som noget, der stjæler læg
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
Claudia Tessier
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As both a participant and observer in health informatics, I found this book to be a thoughtful overview of the evolution of the digital doctor: its initial vision, its beginnings, its difficulties, its false starts, its current reality, and its potential to make healthcare better for its practitioners as well as for those they serve, i.e., the patients. Wachter does all this by integrating his own experiences and knowledge with those of the myriad of experts he interviewed. It is well written an ...more
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
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
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Matt Lavin
Mar 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
He spent more time talking about how things can be bad rather than how things could be good. It was nice to see how some people in the medical profession view technology changes.
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Intelligent and eloquent written.
Max Nova
Jan 16, 2016 rated it liked it
An interesting take on the history of Electronic Health Records and how they're changing medicine for better and for worse in America. I'm not particularly interested in this specific topic, but the book is valuable as a case study of the challenges of integrating technology into existing complex, highly regulated, high stakes industries that are filled with specially trained professionals.

Several of my favorite quotes below


Harvard psychiatrist and leadership guru Ronald H
Perry Dinardo
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Few would doubt that the incorporation of modern technology into medical care has been “strewn with land mines, large and small.” In The Digital Doctor, Robert Wachter shows us the ways in which our modern healthcare system has changed with the addition of new technology and offers insight into the future of healthcare.

Written in a thoughtful, yet entertaining and almost conversational, style, The Digital Doctor is a worthwhile and important read for new and experienced healthcare professionals,
Malin Friess
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
EMR...Electronic Medical Records has been postured as the technology that can make medicine safer, less expensive, and faster. Government health care subsidies have thrown billions of dollars towards hospitals and practices that will comply and initiate EMR. Yet once Doctors and Dentists started using EMR they noticed that something was wrong..
-a hospital still gives a 39 fold overdose of antibiotics to a child
-Doctors are no longer making eye contact with patients but typing on an ipad or compu
Connie Anderson
When my healthcare system (one of the first in the country) first went digital, receptionists (the first phase) were overwhelmed until they learned the system. Then there were computers in the exam rooms. When I read the description of Dr. Robert Wachter's new book, I had to read it. He explained why doctors like mine stopped making eye contact with their patients. That was the reason I most wanted to read it. Plus his hope that once all the bugs are worked out, medicine is going to change expon ...more
Roderic Campbell
Jan 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I like the book, but as I was reading I couldn't help but think about a few points the author had made. He mentioned, and I'm paraphrasing, that adding software to a doctor's workflow is hard because there is a human and emotional factor that needs to be addressed and has thus far failed to be successfully managed with existing software solutions. I tend to disagree on this point as I feel as though high end software design is all about the human factor and really understanding the user's needs. ...more
Jun 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Overall, this was a good overview of the state of technology in healthcare and medicine. I think it accurately portrayed the unique challenges and difficulties that healthcare presents to tech entrepreneurs trying to innovation in the space. Wachter does a very good job of telling stories to illustrate points, for example the story of how a child was mistakenly given 39 pills of Septra in part due to poor user interface design in digital health.

Wachter also does a generally excellent job of synt
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you have the time and interest, this is a must read book for understanding the current and future technology age of medicine. A good layman’s terms explanation on how the new technology, i.e. software programming has affected office visits, prescriptions, hospitalization and the continued advances for shared medical records for providers. Unfortunately, it spotlights the horrendous problems and mistakes causing unjustifiable patient harm; for which there are sometimes no current remedies. Inf ...more
Jim Duncan
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone interested in improving our healthcare system. Nicely reviews how we got where we are today with numerous systems that don't "talk to one another". It touches on why EHRs use doctors, nurses, everyone else involved as scribes to fill in hordes of little check boxes. For those of us in radiology, the chapter on the transition from film to PACS provides tremendous insights. It explains why trips to the radiology reading rooms were once viewed as essential and now are perceiv ...more
Rex Libris
Feb 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An excellent discussion of medical technology and how it has affected the practice of medicine, how it is affecting the practice today, and what the future may be like.

Wachter argues that the adoption of technology may have initially been slow, but it was being integrated into practice in a sane, safe, and effective manner. Then along came our most holy gubmint (my description, not Wachter's) which threw a monkey wrench into the process by trying to force adaption of technology ahead of the prof
Richard Thompson
Oct 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An very interesting look at the interface between computers technology and the health care.

An eye-opener to see how clunky the technology still is and how much still has to be worked out to make it work.

Some interesting cross-overs with Atul Gawande's two books: BEING MORTAL and THE CHECKLIST MANIFESTO.

It would be interesting to know, as a Canadian, how closely the story of Hope, Hype and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine's Computer Age maps onto the our health care system.

Maggee pointed out — and sa
Alex Petrenko
Jan 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Technology has the power to rearrange the very fabric of society. This fascinating read delves into the impacts of digital tech advances and proliferation of electronic medical records systems on the practice of medicine, human interactions in the medical context (peer-to-peer, patient-provider, vendor-provider), and the future of the healing arts. It explores the government's involvement in expanding EMR and its clunky, while mostly well-intentioned, accountability measures. If you have friends ...more
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“I hope you're appreciating the rich irony here: hospitals and doctors are using the Medicare subsidy (Medicare is the federal agency that doles out the HITECH dollars) to buy computer systems that allow them to bill Medicare more effectively.” 1 likes
“a famous 1925 lecture given by Professor Francis Peabody to the Harvard medical student body:             The good physician knows his patients through and through, and his knowledge is bought dearly. Time, sympathy, and understanding must be lavishly dispensed, but the reward is to be found in that personal bond which forms the greatest satisfaction of the practice of medicine. One of the essential qualities of the clinician is interest in humanity, for the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient.” 1 likes
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