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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Doctor, who do you think you are?!

Are we the ‘role’ of ‘doctor’? Are we ‘the white coat’? Are we the ‘caring physician’, the ‘selfless physician’, the ‘exhausted surgeon’, the ‘busy GP’, the ‘doctor who can’t go on’? or is there something more to us than the world sees or trains us to be?

Now that’s a question that’s not in our final medical school exams, or our specialist exams! That’s not one that our patients ask of us either.

But actually, why not? Is not who we are within the foundation of everything that we do? Is not that our humanity, which is utterly vital when working in a caring profession that has care for humanity and connection with people at its heart.

And if we don’t know who we are at the end of our training, then what purpose has our training served us in truth, and the people that we serve? Continue reading