It has been decades since I last participated in a trade fair, but this is definitely my first experience at an IT fair. Needless to say, I am a bit out of my waters, but it is a massive learning curve. Working in the IT branch makes such trade fairs unavoidable, and at my age, I begin to feel that I have missed several intergalactic jumps in terms of technology. So I do my best to keep up and not make a fool of myself.

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Messe Berlin: conhIT2018©MTHerzog

The conhIT is a very specific IT trade fair dedicated solely to the healthcare sector, so the clientele originates primarily from hospitals, medical service centers, and clinics. If you have been to a hospital recently, regardless of what country you may be reading this blog from, you will notice that there is very little paper and pen involved these days. The healthcare world has gone digital and the management of data and hospital-related resources, including human resources, has found its way to digital platforms that those of us born in the 50s and 60s used to hear about on Star Trek! An imaginary world where everything happened with the push of a button. Well guess what … we are living the Trekkie dream and we are the techie Trekkies now! Scary, but oh so exciting.

When I started working in an office right after my university studies in 1991, file management meant placing a printed document in a yellow folder and then this went into a metal filing cabinet. Then along came wordstar and word, lotus and pagemaker, and then we saved everything on to floppy disks (the real floppy ones! 5″ x 5″). The large floppy disks got replaced by the smaller floppies, and eventually we have made our way to external hard drives of 3TB memory that are not any bigger than my iPhone. But if you have massive data to manage, you need a parallel world with virtual networks, human resources, floor management and data interfaces. We are talking about online appointment booking, cross facility coordination, virtual handovers of patients, and the optimization of time and space. In the end, this is all supposed to generate more income, reduce the waiting time and idle spaces, but one wonders whether at some point the pursuit of efficiency will be a high price to pay for human touch.

Some will argue that by automating all the procedures, the staff will actually have more time for the patient, but I have to always think of my dearly departed mother who was a nurse and in her old age, became a patient. This was a woman who was too scared to even use the ATM, so imagine telling her to book an appointment with her cardiologist online! Or my father-in-law who refused to use his mobile phone, being told to do all the automated check-in at a hospital. My mother never made the jump from manual to digital while working in a hospital. Blood pressure was measured with a good old-fashioned arm band, pump and stethoscope. IV drips were monitored and adjusted manually, not self-controlling programmable ones like the ones I was hooked up to later on. So to suddenly be catapulted into a world where one Terminal can manage several thousand patients or you can consult your doctor via video conference or two doctors in different countries can collaborate on a live operation, it is scary and exciting.

Medicine has come a long way since the village shamans or the illegal anatomy studies in the Middle Ages. Bodies, names, illnesses and even medical history are all protected now by data protection laws, but more interestingly, a patient is no longer a single unique entity fighting for a spot in a cramped hospital, but all parties concerned are part of a massive digital world that has no final frontier.