Medicine in the age of technology. Does the personal matter?

There is much talk about ways we can reduce the costs of health care and to ‘streamline’ health care. There are some conversations that are happening about people putting symptoms into machines to generate diagnoses and then generate a treatment algorithm instead of seeing a doctor. This would of course make the cost of health care cheaper by eliminating the role of the physician, but is this really the best practice of medicine?

Can computers and algorithms really replace the role of doctor, or even nurse?

Even if it would reduce ‘costs’ by eliminating the personal contact in medicine, is this really the way forward in medicine?

Would it offer better patient ‘care’?

Would it even offer better patient ‘diagnosis’?

Many patients come to see me having put their symptoms in a symptom checker online only to be freaked out by the potential of multiple serious diagnoses, only to then find when they see me that they have something quite simple and nowhere near as severe as the symptom checkers had lead them to believe.

It takes skill, connection and experience to diagnose what is happening in a person as no two people have the same presentation of an illness and disease.
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Competition in Medicine. Who does it serve?

To get into medical school we learn that we need to ‘compete’ with others, that ‘competition is fierce’ in order to get into medical school, and ‘being ‘competitive’ is seen as being a very good thing.

But is this really a trait that is desirable in a physician?!

Being a physician is about being with people. It is about dealing with people, it is about caring for people – it is not about competing with people!

So why is medical school set up in such a way to foster and encourage competitiveness from a young age?

Do we really need to inspire this sense of ‘competition’ in people so that they will learn and do well?

Do we need to inspire people to try and ‘do better’ and ‘be better’ and beat others irrespective of the topics at hand?

Do we assume that people will be too lazy to learn or pay attention unless they need to beat others?!

And moreover what does this mean when these particular traits and characteristics are carried over into medical school and then into physician life once one has graduated and entered the treadmill of life? Continue reading

How at risk of suicide is your doctor?

Did you know that doctors have a higher rate of suicide than the general population? With the highest rates of burnout than any other professional group? 85% of students and 41-60% of doctors.

That’s right, your health care professional is 1.1-5.7 times more likely than you to commit suicide (1).

How is it that our health care practitioners are so distressed that they not only want to but actually follow through and kill themselves?

When you consider the sort of people who start medicine are truly and deeply caring, what goes wrong? What happens?

Do people start out medicine wanting to kill themselves and that’s why they choose medicine?

Surely not……!

Or is the health care system so abusive towards those in medicine that the inordinate amounts of stresses and strains create isolation and distress and pressure that leads to self harming and self destructive behaviour and ultimately the final act, of removing ones self from life?

Much has been written on this subject. People are supposedly ‘unclear’ about why it is that our health care professionals are killing themselves, tending to blame the characteristics of the sort of people who choose medicine for not ‘stacking up’ to the pressure of everything that is entailed in medicine.

Women in medicine are particularly at risk of suicide, at between 2.5-5.7 times higher rate than the general population. (1)

Its easy to victim blame, and to say ‘oh they couldn’t cope’ or ‘oh they were too sensitive’, but instead of victim blaming, perhaps we ought to look at the system that these people are placed in. Continue reading