Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Live From Impact 2011: Changing Medicine At Boston Children’s Medical Hospital

with 2 comments

In another section of today’s opening general session of Impact 2011, Dr. Jeffery Burns, MD and had of the Division of Critical Care Medicine, brought home to the audience how technology is playing a role in not only transforming and making business more agile.

No, Dr. Burns made a powerful house call, pleading with the audience of technologists that the medical field needs their help, particularly to change the healthcare “information bottleneck.” He made the point through a life saving story, whereby he was working to save a critically ill young girl who had a septic bloodstream infection and who was being attended by Dr. Burns and a team of 20 nurses and doctors.

Fortunately, she made it, and two years later, Dr. Burns received a call from a doctor friend of his, from Guetemala City, facing a very similar situation. Dr. Burns attempted to help his colleague through some primitive videoconferencing, but it was very difficult to send the specific medical steps and shared data necessary to his colleague to help him learn the procedure.

Somehow she, too, made it, but Dr. Burns was convinced there had to be a better way to share and transfer medical knowledge.  In medical school, and in their residencies, what one student sees on a shift one evening could be dramatically different for another student the next.  How could technology help create some repeatable, and virtual, education solutions that would better help students learn and retain medical knowledge??

The answer came in the form of the X-Box game, Call of Duty 4, which Dr. Burns witnessed his son playing one Friday evening with some friends (including a new German one located in Munich — and when two weeks later, Dr. Burns visited the IBM-produced Masters golf tournament Web site.

Soon, he was meeting with the IBM Interactive group from Atlanta and Boston, and demonstrating to them his need to map what we called the “Adult Learning Cycle” to an interactive prototype application that could be loaded on a thumb drive, but reach into the cloud for new content.

Dr. Burns explained to the Impact 2011 audience that the prototype medical education application was shortly in trials around the globe, from Beirut to Cambodia, and helping medical students utilize it to garner valuable medical knowledge in a “learn by doing” mode — the most effective way for many adults to learn.

Dr. Burns wrapped up his compelling discussion by relating a quote from that most famous of anthropologists, Margaret Mead.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can chance the world; indeed, it’s the only thing it ever has.”

Written by turbotodd

April 11, 2011 at 8:49 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Hi Todd,

    As you might imagine, the IBM Interactive team was anxiously awaiting this presentation.

    This project is just amazing and as you probably got the sense from seeing him speak, it is a privilege for us to be working with Dr. Burns and his team. I think many of us would argue that this project is the single most important project with which we have ever had the opportunity to be associated.

    In case anyone reading your post is interested, Adam & Jodi Cutler along with Michael Corbridge and Dave Martin were the key contributors from our team on the project. Casey Dugan from IBM Research was also a huge contributor as well. I am sure that I am missing a bunch of other folks as well.

    Personally, I am excited and delighted to see this project move forward with the greater IBM behind it. Dr. Burns was actually my son’s doctor during a stay at Children’s just a week after he was born. He is as amazing a doctor as you might get an impression of from his presentation. My wife and I felt extremely blessed to have had access to such a wonderful doctor and care as he provided.

    Thanks for highlighting his presentation here.


    Paul Beaulieu

    April 12, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    • Paul, no question you had yourself a great doctor in Dr. Burns, and it goes without saying the story he shared went over extremely well with the Impact audience. Thanks for reaching out and commenting. If you get a sec, shoot me an email on the best way to reach you, and when I get a break I’ll give a shout, as there’s something I’ve been meaning to touch base with you on.

      Thanks again,


      Todd Watson

      April 12, 2011 at 10:28 pm

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