“One major responsibility of an expert is to know what to ignore.”
Health information is more plentiful and accessible to patients than ever before. As a physician I am thrilled that people are empowered with knowledge to take control of their health, but I am also sincerely worried about the “misses:” misinformation, misconceptions, misdiagnoses and mistakes.
The great sculptor Michelangelo believed that every piece of marble was a beautiful statue just waiting for the artist to remove the parts that didn’t belong. I believe that this principle applies to health information – the utility of the information is directly proportional to the reader’s ability to ignore the parts that are irrelevant or incorrect. Google cannot remove the irrelevant, because it can’t evaluate the science behind various claims, appreciate the nuances of an individual’s life circumstances, or confirm a diagnosis. No, as powerful and wonderful as search engines are, they are mere marble. The master sculptors in health information are physicians – trained for at least a decade in the art of analyzing data, appreciating the connectedness of various symptoms and body systems, and focused on chipping away at the irrelevant to uncover personalized solutions and cures – they are the artists whose experience and insight can make the difference between life or death.
Are sculptors flawed? Sure. Are some better than others. Yes. But the bottom line is that information in the hands of a person who can apply it in an intelligent, personalized, and relevant way is our best shot at good, quality healthcare. There is an art to medicine, and the trick is to know what to ignore. Find a good sculptor and stick with him/her so that you can live your very best and avoid the “misses!”This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.