Four Physicians Describe the Synergy Between Technology and Bedside Medicine
Many physicians are excited to use technology to improve patient care. However, as widely discussed in the medical community, it must be applied in a manner that respects empathy and human connection in bedside medicine.
Independently, four physicians (Abraham Verghese, Eric Topol, Christopher Maiona and Caesar Djavaherian) are outlining similar solutions that leverage technology to nurture the doctor-patient relationship, cultivate empathy in medicine and inspire physician presence at the bedside.
· In the Stanford Department of Medicine Annual Report, for example, Verghese shares his hope for artificial intelligence, namely natural-language processing and video technology, that captures “what is actually said and done in the exam room.” This, he says, allows the physician to focus on the patient and family.
· Likewise, in a Forbes article, Topol names natural language processing as a tool that can eliminate keyboards, ultimately improving efficiency and creating more time for physicians. Topol says the lack of empathy and human-human contact in medicine can “be ameliorated” if doctors have more time.
· In a Healthline Q&A, Maiona describes a computer system that prioritizes “daily tasks in an intelligent manner that is consistent with how that physician practices.” He explains that this is the type of breakthrough that acts as “a valued resource” because it allows physicians to be at the patient’s bedside.
· Djavaherian is also cited in the Healthline piece, stating that an improved Electronic Health Record (EHR) that speeds up the administrative process would help doctors to “focus on what matters the most – the patients.”
We agree when Topol describes the doctor-patient relationship as “the heart of medicine,” and accordingly, we believe technology should not act as an obstacle keeping physicians away from the bedside. The solution, however, doesn’t need to position humans against machines. Instead, as articulated by Verghese, the outcome should engage both physicians and AI such that the sum is greater than the two parts. After all, medicine isn’t only “caring work,” a phrase used by Verghese, and it isn’t only data and medical records. It’s both.
Humility is an underappreciated skill in a time of global budgets, evidenced based approaches, and cost-containment. The bright, well-read, talented medical students who may lack humility are not uncommon.
Patient-centered care is an important aspect of the National Strategy for Quality Improvement on Health Care. As such, healthcare institutions are strongly focusing on the patient-physician relationship and the patient experience.
The editor-in-chief of Medscape, Dr. Eric Topol, visited Stanford to sit down and do an interview with our Dr. Vergese for the Medscape One-on-One online video series.
Peter Conrad, a sociologist at Brandeis University, spoke of the rise and fall of the medical authority in the doctor patient office encounter in his many scholarly articles. With the internet becoming the “elephant in the doctor’s office,” the dynamic of medical authority has certainly changed…