There are exciting Information Age technologies being applied to medicine and surgery today. They include advanced diagnostics and imaging, remote medical and surgical intervention, informatics, virtual prototyping and simulation. In 1994, an informal estimate given during a National Science Foundation workshop suggested that 90% of the information desired by a physician to treat a patient can be acquired electronically. Examples included non-invasive imaging (X-ray, CT, MRI), vital signs, laboratory test results, patient records, treatment protocols, consultations and database searches. Physical examination, simple procedures and even basic surgery are being enabled by other sophisticated technologies allowing remote manipulation, palpation, and 3-D visualization using computer based anatomy and the new virtual reality surgical simulators. Thus anything a physician needs to know about a wounded soldier or patient can be acquired in electronic form and transmitted to a physician at a computer workstation. With the technologies of teleoperation, telemanipulation and telesurgery, the physician can bring expertise to the place where the soldier is wounded or the patient is sick. In addition, the same computer workstation used for surgery can provide a realistic wounded “virtual” patient for practicing life saving procedures on lethal injuries and, with a flip of the switch, be used for surgery on the real patient. This information revolution is the foundation of the fundamental change in medicine, and the cornerstone is the digital physician. It is Medicine’s wake-up call to the information age.
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