On August 1, 2014, I crashed while riding my bicycle and was seriously injured. It was one of the misfortunes of bad circumstances we all possibly fear—something knocked my front wheel out of control and a normal fall to the ground became much worse as I fell, instead, over the side of a bridge and plunged nearly 20 feet into a deep creek gully. The ensuing discovery of my breathing, talking, but broken body, and the recovery, transport, and surgical repair that followed did something simple to state and profound in its meaning—teams of EMTs, helicopter pilots, trauma center doctors and nurses, and one kick-ass neuro-surgeon saved my life. I was conscious through much of the rescue and trauma activities—none of what happened would have been possible without digital trust.
Virtually every step involved communications, achieved digitally. Patient data (including insurance data) was inputted on the scene and transferred to the medi-vac team, the hospital, and, likely, many departments in the hospital. Medical data—heart rate, blood pressure, description of external injuries—all were electronically communicated and available to the trauma team upon my arrival on the roof of the hospital. Perhaps most amazing was the choreography of the trauma team—information being collected via monitors, x-rays, CTI scans, and MRI scans being captured, processed, analyzed, and relied upon for each next step in my care. Within likely an hour of my arrival at the hospital, the pictures, scans, and other data had all been digitally integrated and provided an amazing transparency into my condition—detecting the breaks in my bones, the absence of internal bleeding, the absence of any injuries to my extremities or my brain or skull. All information digital, secure, and trusted by the care providers as the basis on which to save my life.
It was amazing to witness, and it was incredibly comforting when I was resting to know I could see the attributes of digital trust in action, making a difference not just in one patient’s care, but in the care of thousands every day. I could not help but reflect on the earliest electronic patient information records for which I had served as an expert lawyer helping to craft the rules and to witness how far we had come. It was humbling to see how the improvements since then truly did save my life.
So, yes, Virginia, digital trust does exist and it can be achieved across all of our information systems and the next generations of innovation that will follow. But, even today, digital trust works to save lives every day. How do I know? Because I am one of those people who are alive today because digital trust worked.
For those that may be curious, my injuries were remarkably focused—I broke my sternum and one rib, but incurred five fractures of my neck vertebrae and a ruptured disk. When all is healed, over half of my neck length will be reinforced by carbon fiber and titanium. I can walk, talk, and write with all fingers but may be a little ambiguous when I try to nod or shake my head. I will still be able to teach and, oh man, will I have some case studies to present to my students that will rock the house!