Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments (1)

Health 2.0: Is It A Threat To The Medical Profession?

The Internet has threatened journalism. Clay Shirky has said that everyone is a media outlet. An Internet connection and blogging platform makes everyone a publisher. Can the mass professionalization of journalism be applied to medicine or health? Can access to a broadband connection outfit a citizen to think and act like a physician?

There are pieces of what physicians do that can be replicated, and other pieces that can’t. The technical things that doctors do can’t be replaced. Removing an appendix or replacing a heart valve, for example. Tough to pull off on CureTogether.

But what about the thinking? After all, patients have access to the same information, references, and literature as physicians. Unfettered access to information can create an illusion. It can give us a false sense of control.

In his provocative book, You Are Not a Gadget, Jaron Lanier tells us that “information is alienated experience.” And experience is the only process that can dealienate information. Or in the case of the infirm, it’s clinical judgment and experience that makes that myriad of medical literature applicable to an individual’s case — to a degree.

Clearly personal technology will progressively put elements of disease control and maintenance into the hands of patients. Look at our friends with diabetes. What they do on their own could never have been predicted a generation ago.

So will the medical profession suffer the same fate as the newspaper industry? It shouldn’t although we all must recognize that the role of the physician is evolving. What physicians do a generation from now may be unrecognizable to today’s practitioner. Physicians need to shape their role proactively or risk having it shaped for them.

How physicians work with empowered patients in an increasingly controlled and technical medical world should be the subject of intense discussion. Meetings, panels, breakout sessions, deep dives and retreats should be dedicated to the subject. The profession doesn’t understand this. Higher medical education doesn’t understand this. Ultimately they will. Or risk going the way of the newsman.

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*


You may also like these posts

Read comments »


One Response to “Health 2.0: Is It A Threat To The Medical Profession?”

  1. This is a very insightful article. I do believe that technology and the associated culture is forcing most industries (not just health) to seriously reflect and rethink how they do things. Making basic information more readily available should facilitate the processes of doing the more difficult stuff more easily and more quickly.

    A surgeon once said that he would only need about four hours to teach virtually any guy on the street how to take an appendix out — but to teach him what to do if something went wrong… well that would take ten years. This idea that it takes ten years of deliberate practice to become an expert has been frequently cited in nearly all fields.

    Once we get over the initial fear of change, we realise that expertise will always be valued.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »