About the author:

Howard J. Luks, MD

Howard J. Luks, MD

A Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon in Hawthorne, NY. Dr Luks specializes in the treatment of the shoulder, knee, elbow, and ankle. He has a very “social” patient centric approach and believes that the more you understand about your issue, the more informed your decisions will be. Ultimately your treatments and his recommendations will be based on proper communications, proper understanding, and shared decision-making principles — all geared to improve your quality of life. Please read our Disclaimer

21 comments on “Technology and Healthcare: Breaking Down Doctor-Patient Barriers

  1. Great insights, and that’s exactly what I’m seeing as a clinical oncologist. We’re moving out of centuries of a “unidirectional” model in which doctors, who had a monopoly on relevant information, told patients what to do, to a new era of “bidirectional”, collaborative care that also includes input from online communities and leads to a mutual discussion of how to best proceed. In the world of cancer, at least, progress has been so fast that no single doctor can know everything that might be relevant to a patient’s care, and it is a disease that is typically very serious but also often chronic enough that patients and caregivers can have the opportunity to become quite educated and participate in their own care. This creates an ideal setting in which doctors should welcome additional input from patients and caregivers who can become very sophisticated allies in generating the most overall knowledge and, ideally, a consensus about the best treatment strategy.

    I think the leading challenges are that it takes time and effort for patients and caregivers to really learn the nuances of a topic, that it can be difficult to assess the quality of a very wide range of content available on line, but especially that this new model challenges our conditioned expectations. Doctors have expected to be the definitive authority, and acknowledging that they can’t and don’t know everything relevant about a subject undermines outdated but longstanding presumptions of what a doctor should be. It represents a fundamental change in the identity of what being a doctor is, at least among doctors who trained before Google and online communities democratized health care information.

    Meanwhile, patients and caregivers can no longer cling to the idea that it must be a terrible shortcoming of their doctor to not know everything about their medical issue. That concept is predicated on a fiction perpetuated by the health care system and the media, but it’s important that knowledgeable patients who do collaborate in bringing new information into the exam room don’t presume that only a sub-par doctor would benefit from the insights collected by people who can focus on a single case — their own — with intense focus. Even the most knowledgeable doctors will need to spread their attention across a range of patients and conditions.

    There’s no question that the democratization of medical information has been disruptive, and I strongly believe it will prove to be beneficial, but it is always difficult to have new conditions overturn longstanding social dynamics.

    Jack West, MD
    Seattle, WA

    1. Thanks Jack… I’ve always felt that docs should never be afraid to say ” I don’t know” … but let’s head to the computer and find out. I also think it’s perfectly ok to give patients homework — and the appropriate terms to search and then have them return in a week of so to review what we both learned.

      Howard Luks, MD
      Hawthorne NY

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