The healthcare industry is struggling with increased computerization and digital patient records.
Carl D. Walsh—Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
November 13, 2018

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Over the past few days I’ve been struggling with a publishing software program I don’t know how to use well. It has been a humbling and exciting experience. I’m the 17-year rookie at Fortune who spent the weekend asking colleagues how to work this thingamajiggy that was befuddling me.

I improved rapidly, and by yesterday I felt like I’d gotten the hang of it. I still don’t like the software, which is clunky and not always intuitive. And there are certain things that no matter how good I get I’ll still need to run to the experts for help. (Thanks, Julia Bohan and Nicolas Rapp!)

My insecurities and pride of accomplishment resonated when I read the great Atul Gawande’s latest feature in The New Yorker, which we mentioned in Data Sheet last week, about his and his colleagues’ struggle to use a medical-information software program call Epic. The article—slyly titled “The Upgrade” in print and the clickier “Why Doctors Hate Their Computers” online—is a powerful reminder of the limitations of technology generally and software in particular. Epic has demonstrative benefits for patients, Gawande asserts. But it is a seriously mixed bag for doctors and other health-industry professionals. Gawande finds a direct link between increased computerization and doctor burnout.

Gawande’s conclusions address the burgeoning dilemmas of our time: human versus machines and also humans plus machines. “We can retune and streamline our systems, but we won’t find a magical sweet spot between competing imperatives,” he writes. “We can only insure that people always have the ability to turn away from their screens and see each other, colleague to colleague, clinician to patient, face to face.”

There’s likely an analog in your business. I know there is in mine.

***

The market was hammered Monday. One stock showed up green on my screen. Shares of SurveyMonkey jumped nearly 7% on lower-than-average volume. That means some slice of investors think the newly public survey company might get bought, now that software titan SAP is acquiring SurveyMonkey competitor Qualtrics for an astounding $8 billion.

Adam Lashinsky
@adamlashinsky
adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

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