These days you can’t read enough about all the new high-tech inventions, breakthrough technologies and how they influence medicine. There are conferences, journals and giant companies built around the effort of introducing more effective it and tech solutions for treating patients. Some of these efforts are truly groundbreaking and make practicing medicine more accurate and successful. But in the midst of it all, we can’t forget that technology should be an additional and not a substitutional tool.
Doctor visits are already receiving a lot of criticism that point out how little time is spent discussing a treatment plans, new medications and in general the patient’s complaints. In fact recent studies showed that physicians spend an average 49 seconds telling patients what they need to know about starting a new drug treatment. Only 35% of them address the possible adverse effects and 34% tell their patient exactly how long to take the medicine. Studies also point out that around half of the patients leave the doctor’s office not entirely understanding what their physician told them. Research also found that next to physician’s technical skills their ability to communicate effectively with patients is just as important for having a trusting relationship between doctors and patients.
So with these problems already existing in the examination rooms and doctors’ offices the last thing we need is to have a more distant and uncommunicative physician-patient relationship. Technology is not there to take the place of discussing problems and talking through treatment options. It is there to help doctors see and picture what they otherwise wouldn’t be able to see. New technologies are there to improve healthcare not to blindfold physicians and take center position away from patients.
This train of thought was also represented at TED Global Conference by Abraham Verghese MD while emphasizing the role of the human touch and paying closer attention to patients during their visits. You wouldn’t necessarily think of an advice like this at TED, usually a very tech-focused event. But the speech below proves that you can have both: technology and personal relationship between physicians and patients. Because technology in healthcare should be additional and not substitutional.