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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Going Solo?: Know the difference between tools and toys.

I want to talk a bit about technology, a subject that I have covered in the past, and seems to be of interest to this blog's readers, all 3 of you. Only this time, I want to discuss the difference between a tool and a toy. Whether you work for someone else or yourself, you’ll likely be bombarded by technologies and gadgetries and tech driven marketing. In order to conserve important capital and time and energy, you must learn to differentiate the tools from the toys. It is simply essential.

Tools have a primarily useful purpose. Toys are primarily for entertainment. Tools and toys can be fun and can have useful features and you can be convinced through clever marketing that a toy is a tool, when in actuality it is not. Toys can be every bit as expensive as tools, even more so. Toys are impulse purchases while tools never are. You want toys but need tools. And that is a major distinction. If you buy a piece of technology and then try to rationalize a use for it, you are buying a toy. If you have a problem that needs a solution and you find a technology that works, you are purchasing a tool. Plain and simple. Toys belong at home. Tools belong at work. Not vice-versa. Period!

Here are some examples.
• Camera Phone: For me a toy. The only need I have is that my cell phone receives and makes calls when I need it to or when a patient or doctor is trying to reach me. If the cell phone cost me a dollar more because it has a camera in it, it is not worth it to me. On the other hand, if I did lots of hospital work and needed an easy way to capture patient demographic data from the medical chart, the camera phone would be a useful tool.
• The TRIO Phone. This phone has windows CE, calendar, camera, MP3, GPS features, among others. For me, total toy. Again, I need a phone that works. Everything else is bull. I had a partner who had this phone and used to walk around the office with the phone’s GPS feature. Maybe he had a really bad sense of direction and found this to be a useful tool, but I suspect it was no more than a toy. In his defense, he used the phone as a means to transmit data securely to a company for which he was consulting, so the phone for him was a fun tool.
• Tablet PC. For me, right now, in my current situation, this a toy. If I was working multiple rooms at the same time and needed the handwriting feature or needed my patients to complete forms on it, the tablet PC would become a tool. But I don’t. Not right now. I don’t have a use for it and if I bought one, I’d be buying a toy. If you have to change how you operate to justify the technology, you’re buying a toy.
• Electronic medical record software. Tool. But be careful of paying for features that may be toys masquerading as tools. An example may be an e-prescribing feature that allows you to send Rx refills over the internet to the pharmacy. If this saves you time and money and makes you more effective, it’s a tool. For me, a toy. For you, who knows?
• DaVinci Robot: For my hospital, a small community hospital, in my view, this would be toy. A million dollar toy, but a toy nonetheless. For a larger hospital, like Paul Levy’s, it might, I say it MIGHT!!! be a tool.

Anyway, this is an example of how I approach acquiring new technologies. I’m a technophile, within reason.

Hope you liked the post.