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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*

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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.

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