…technology has a role in evolution of our tattered and dysfunctional healthcare system. But not if it is at the expense of simply being a good doctor…
Robert was the picture of health. He had run 8 marathons and finished countless 5K and 10K races. Robert tracked everything. He tracked his sleep, food intake and logged his exercise parameters religiously. He pursued an exercise regimen because his brother and father both suffered from severe cardiac disease and he was hell bent on avoiding the same issues.
Robert awoke one morning and checked his heart rate variability (HRV). It revealed a unusual drop. The next few days was much the same.
A 7 minute mile was a routine workout pace for Robert. But over the last few days he noticed that he felt more winded during his usual morning run.
That fateful morning Robert checked his VO2 max and noticed that it had also dropped considerably over the last few days. Robert sent an email to his physician, shared his data and concerns. His doctor was also a runner, and loved when his patients armed him with data that enabled him to treat them.
Later that day, during his cardiac catheterization, Robert’s physician let him know that his tracking activities and insight had likely saved his life.
Two houses down from Robert was Linda. Linda was a housewife and because she was so busy tending to her childrens’ needs she had little time for exercise. She did love gardening though.
One day Linda was kneeling down in her garden. When she stood back up she felt a snap in the back of her knee.
Linda’s knee was feeling better, but at her annual physical she mentioned that she had this episode of knee pain the previous week. An MRI revealed a medial meniscus tear. “Hmm… if something is torn, for sure it needs to be fixed… right?” She had never asked that question of her physician. She was refereed to a specialist. No examination was performed… and how this tear was affecting Linda was not discussed. Surgery was recommended.
Linda was feeling better, her daily activities were unchanged … but the “expert” is recommending surgery so she signed up.
Her surgery went well… by any standard measure. But her pain was worse within a week after surgery. The swelling in her leg has never improved since.
Now Linda is limping around, and remains on anti-coagulants to treat the DVT that almost killed her.
Technology will cure what ails healthcare …
Technology will disrupt healthcare …
The headlines are all over the place. They litter the digital healthcare landscape in 140 ch or less.
Whether it’s technology to:
- improve diagnosis
- improve monitoring
- improve communication or
- enable synchronous or asynchronous remote consultations
Putting frosting on a rancid cupcake will not improve the overall appeal.
It’s the context folks … We exist in a high tech-low touch healthcare environment.. This is leading to over-diagnosis, over-treatment and therefore many unnecessary procedures.
YES ! In the proper context technology can be liberating, workflow enhancing, and life saving. But the trend is NOT our friend right now. There is too little consideration given to how each complaint is interfering with the lives of each individual patient sitting before you. You see, many trained professionals are treating a number, or an MRI finding. A complete picture must be taken into context to personalize the treatment best suited for the individual before you. Layering more technology onto a broken workflow or a broken doctor-patient could end up bending the cost curve the wrong way, or the morbidity curve the wrong way. It’s happening now.
Yes, technology— when incorporated into a willing and and capable healthcare environ can save lives. In many instances, however, … technology is literally killing people … or at the very least contributing to their demise.
Sure, technology has a role in evolution of our tattered and dysfunctional healthcare system. But not if it is at the expense of simply being a good doctor. Good doctors listen, communicate, make themselves available, teach and are empathetic. These are the basic skill sets that enable one to treat a person, and not their laboratory or MRI finding. These basic skills further enable me to determine if a certain diagnosis requires treatment, or observation… just because I have a scalpel and 3T / 3D technology to see what’s torn doesn’t mean I need to use it.
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