"Lab IT Update"

Less Complex IT Technologies Will Propel Use of The Internet

EXPERTS in information technologies (IT) predict that the next paradigm shift in IT will come from reducing the complexity of software and hardware.

Analyst Steven Milunovic of Merrill Lynchstates that, as complex IT systems are simplified for users, every single employee will be expected to use IT technology. This will increase the number of Internet and computer users by a factor of ten.

The Economist, in a “think piece” about IT, declared that “the boundaries between office, car and home will become increasingly blurred and will eventually disappear altogether. In rich countries, virtually the entire population will be expected to be permanently connected to the Internet, both as employees and as customers. This will at last make IT pervasive and ubiquitous, like electricity or telephones before it, so the emphasis will shift towards making gadgets and networks simple to use.”

Trend In Lab Info Systems

Bruce Friedman, M.D. concurs. “We already see this type of evolution in how laboratories upgrade their laboratory information system (LIS) software,” he said. “Instead of a full upgrade, many laboratories look for function-specific software modules that add capability to the basic LIS while allowing easy interfaces to other computers and the Internet.”

Friedman is Professor of Pathology at the University of Michigan Medical School and an expert in laboratory information systems. “This is a major trend and it will be a theme at the upcoming LabInfoCom conference, scheduled in Las Vegas for March 2-4, 2005,” he noted.

Lab managers and pathologists will be interested in one expert’s demographic breakdown of computer users. Pip Coburn, a technology analyst at the investment bank UBS, categorizes 70% of the world’s population as “analogues.” These are people terrified of technology. Their pain is not rooted in “just the time it takes to figure out new gadgets but the pain of feeling stupid at each moment along the way.”

Coburn says 15% are “digital immigrants.” These are individuals, usually 30-somethings who have been comfortable with technology since their teen years. The remaining 15% are “digital natives,” teenagers and young adults who have grown up knowing nothing but e-mail, IM (instant messaging), and other Internet services. He predicts that, within a decade, “virtually the entire population will be digital natives or immigrants, as the aging analogues convert to avoid social isolation.”

The concept of characterizing people as analogues, digital immigrants, and digital natives illustrates why it is important for laboratories to have a sophisticated IT strategy which is updated regularly. Because laboratories are information factories, it is essential that they maintain their IT capabilities to meet the needs and expectations of physicians, payers, and patients.

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