Ubiquitous computing and keeping a personal touch

According to MarketWatch.com, a new hospital in Missouri was designed with a computer in every patient room. (With 258 beds, that’s a lot of computers!)

The results in terms of improving efficiency (less running about finding charts and supplies and so on) are certainly great, but more than that, I am impressed by the deliberate decision to avoid losing the personal patient contact. Specifically, it would be easy for a nurse in the patient’s room to spend all their time looking at a computer screen, and if it is fixed to a wall, that would inevitably mean turning his/her back on the patient.

To avoid this, a mechanism made by Proximity Systems was used, whereby the computer screen and keyboard are on a retractable arm. It can be moved and swivelled into place, allowing the nurse/doctor to continue facing and talking to the patient, and making it a secondary tool in the interaction (as it should be). It can even be swivelled around to let the patient see the screen too. When not in use, the whole thing folds up into the wall, taking up almost no space at all.

I am a self-confessed computer geek, so I like my computers… but I also greatly appreciate this importance for personal contact above artificial. The futuristic visions of computers and robots tending to all our needs (a la various movies) seem fairly bleak to me. We should never lose sight of the personal aspect of life, because we are inherently social creatures (some of us admittedly less so than others!).

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