A Practical Approach to Technology

Sep 22, 2010

October 2010: Technology can be a boon and a burden to the busy oncologist—new tools and applications can streamline information and save time, but researching and learning to use all the latest gadgets can be frustrating and time consuming. ASCO’s IT Committee is focused on helping oncology professionals apply technology in the most effective ways. Michael J. Fisch, MD, MPH, of M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, serves as the 2010-2011 IT Committee Chair. In the interview that follows, Dr. Fisch discussed with ASCO Connection his interest in technology as it relates to cancer care and his goals for the committee.

Dr. Fisch. Photo courtesy of The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

AC: Have you always been interested in technology?
Dr. Fisch: I have always been interested in getting information and applying it on a “just in time” basis. For me, this has been particularly relevant in patient care and clinical research. Technology is just a means to this end. Whereas some people may be fascinated with the technology itself (the programs and devices, how things work, etc.), I am neither knowledgeable nor especially interested in those nitty-gritty details.

AC: How have consumer technologies become integrated into your daily practice of oncology? What do you think the future practice of medicine will look like?
Dr. Fisch: I have an iPhone, iPad, and BlackBerry. I use the BlackBerry (supported by my institution) for e-mail and for institutional paging. I use the iPhone as my cell phone, and for maps and calculator functions (including body surface area calculations for chemotherapy dosing). I am just beginning to use the iPad, and I’ve found it useful for showing patient education materials (pictures, slides, documents, and even some video clips) at the bedside, and for bedside teaching of fellows and residents. When away from my institution, I will check PubMed on the iPad too.

AC: Do you have a favorite gadget (or favorite app, website, etc.)?
Dr. Fisch: My favorite iPhone/iPad apps for medical use are PubMed on Tap and Mediquations. I enjoy functional apps such as GoodReader (for keeping and organizing documents on the iPad), CalcXT for my nerdy calculator, and iThoughtsHD for reviewing mind maps that I’ve created and use on my desktop computer. Since I live in Houston, I like Hurricane HD for tracking storms.

AC: What are the goals and focus areas for the IT Committee for the coming year?
Dr. Fisch: Some of our goals this year are:

  • To describe, understand, and promote the development and use of apps for iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, and Droid devices as a way to deliver just-in-time information for patient care and oncology education;
  • To understand and communicate the current advantages and disadvantages of, as well as future opportunities for, social networking to improve care with patients and families; and
  • To understand, communicate, and ultimately improve the full scope of professional networking resources and opportunities for cancer care professionals in the United States and abroad.

AC: “IT” in this case stands for “Integrated Technology.” What does that mean to you, and what does it mean for ASCO members?
Dr. Fisch: Integrated technology puts the focus on what technology can do to help oncologists function better in patient care, research, and education. It emphasizes function, rather than the fascinating aspects of technology from the technical and business viewpoint. It also reflects our desire to see useful connectivity between different media, technologies, and information processes.

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