On technology and medicine

From George Gubernikoff in JAMA Cardiology in a piece titled “The Great Technological Divide“:

All too frequently as rounds are made in the hospital, physicians jockey for access to computer terminals. Hours spent entering information in required fields leave little time to enter a patient room and engage in conversation let alone perform a physical examination. Artificial intelligence with programs interpreting and writing new programs may be the Rubicon crossed where we insidiously abdicate patient responsibility and pledge, leaving a contract broken.

A rational approach in medicine provides for a balance between science and humanism. Scientific approaches embrace technology in an attempt to cure complex disease, ease suffering, and prolong life. This approach in medical care with its focus on therapeutics to prolong life can at times fail to recognize that the human experience is fragile, flawed, and ultimately fleeting. This has brought a new emphasis of humanistic medicine in our approach toward patient care…Humanitas meant kindness, courtesy, and character. Benevolence, as a feature of humanism, leads one away from the self and toward the appreciation of others’ life experiences, pain, and suffering….

Two of Sir William Osler’s quotes add great punctuation to these ideals: “The good physician treats the disease, the great physician treats the patient with the disease” and “It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of disease a patient has.”

The ability to leverage technology to improve patient outcomes without diminishing the importance of the patient-physician relationship is an issue that will continue to grow as technology integrates itself more and more into the practice of medicine.

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