Last Christmas I had the idea to give everyone a piece of smart technology: a smart plug, that controls whatever is plugged into it. I thought it would be a nice gesture to my not so techie relatives, to familiarize them with a glimpse of intelligent tech. The idea turned into a terrible one this Christmas, as I spent (again) much time configuring the device.

My mom pressed the reset button accidentally, and everything went back to where it started. She used it to control the iron: one time she forgot to turn it off, and it was pure luck that the house didn’t burn down. With the help of the smart plug, she was sure, that the power was off.  My sister didn’t even bother to try the smart plug; she doesn’t really know a good use for it. I tried to convince her to control the Christmas lights, but she told me she likes to turn them on every day.

However, even if she would use it for the Christmas lights, probably half of the time the outlet would not work for some mysterious reason – as it does in my home. The smart thermostat also has a will of its own; it randomly decides when it is time to turn on the heat or turn it off. I have more of a semi-automated home, with all these smart tools that fail when you least expect. As it turns out, I’m not alone, when I read an article on Medium, about smart home technology that is not smart enough.

How is all that related to health IT technology? I wonder, people with dementia, diabetes or just older people are safe relying on smart devices, that are not smart enough? Can we trust their illness to an alien gadget?

We do not have perfect health IT gadgets. We took only the first steps towards the complete digitalization of healthcare. Compared to the simple bicycle, we are merely discovering that a safety light on the back of the bike would be beneficial, or we are still working on the brakes.

Technological discoveries arrive daily. For example, a company is perfecting a battery-free chip, that helps connect people with products. The paper-thin chip draws its energy from the surrounding Wi-Fi and mobile networks. Use case scenarios are multiple, and to give just one example: at home, elderly patients can communicate with their medication to get instructions and reminders of when and how to use them. Containers equipped with this chip can automatically reorder themselves, when empty.

Yes, there is room for improvement, and yes sometimes these devices drive us crazy. However, they mean freedom, ensure a quality life. So, I say, yes. We can trust them – with professional support from the caregiver, from the health IT specialist or advisor – as we, at NETIS like to think about ourselves.

Author: Laszlo Varga