Healthcare is full of tech-facilitated miracles. I think health care technology's best successes so far lie in applications aimed at individuals. My daughter's cochlear implant is one great example.
A cochlear implant (CI) does not make my daughter a "hearing person." But it certainly gives her the opportunity to access sounds and to make meaning of them in a way that's very similar to what people with normal hearing can do.
Deaf people don't have surgery and wake up "hearing" any more than you buy a computer and become Bill Gates. To realize the full potential of a cochlear implant, a user learns to make meaningful use of the data the implant provides.
Implant users can hear--and grasp the significance of--a toilet flushing almost immediately. But understanding and mastering a complex battery of sounds--like syllables, words, and sentences--has a much longer learning curve. Gaining meaningful use of a cochlear implant also requires concomitant support that's not technical at all: early education for language acquisition and ongoing speech therapy.
Think about another IT-facilitated product that fosters miracles: digital radiography. A lay person can see that digital images are sharper, brighter, more precise than those on old-fashioned films. But knowing what's normal, what's a normal variation, and what requires follow-up takes education and experience, an intimacy with both the imaging device and the anatomy it captures. Like a CI, radiography only becomes meaningful when the data is interpreted, communicated, and factored into a larger whole.
System-level application of IT, a late-comer in healthcare, is likely on a similar journey toward meaningful use. Right now, I'd say health care stakeholders are hearing toilets flush and noticing that some things are brighter than others.
I think there's a lot of other things that could be said about that.
But since I'm feeling a little like Forrest Gump today, I think that's all I'm going to say.