Exploring Human Potential


Posted on | February 13, 2008 | No Comments

Humanizing and revolutionizing medicine through technology

Can technology save health care? While it offers bright hope for tomorrow, technology’s impact on medicine in general, and the patient-physician relationship in particular, is complex, to say the least. The mood of clinicians toward technology, for most of the 20th century, has been welcoming but cautious; a complex love-hate relationship that has rejoiced and cheered on progress, while struggling to accept and master change in a manner that would avoid driving a wedge between them and their patients.

It is fair to say that, as the health consumer movement has matured over the past 25 years, outright resistance and abject fear of technology has progressed to and beyond grudging acceptance. Clinicians and patients have developed computer skills together, pursued broadband and wireless connectivity together, and discovered the value of personalized and customized computer search engines together. As this has occurred, the specialty of medical informatics has risen to legitimacy within the medical hierarchy, and its leaders have reinforced the need to advantage technology and informatics in support of humanistic care.  

It may be true that we have managed to move as caregivers from resistance to acceptance of technology in health care. But I believe we have not moved far enough.

In my work as chair of the technology sub-committee for the National Commission for Quality Long Term Care my sense is growing that we are not fully taking advantage of the revolutionary potential of technology to truly transform our health care system. The potential of our technology is awesome. Our embrace of it, however, is still far too tentative. Where are the ‘killer applications’ that would create a truly preventive and holistic health delivery system that is equitable, just, efficient, and uniformly reliable? We see developments on the edges, but not the great technology bursts that are necessary to transform health care.

Health information leaders of the 21st century need to be more revolutionary. Were they to achieve at their full capacity, our health care system would transform and re-center around relationship based care, cementing the people to the people caring for the people. The end result is what we might call “techmanity” – the mutual advancement of technology and humanistic values.

Paul Dinsmore, in the AMA Book of Project Management, said: "… designed properly…technology can be a great gift to humanity."  

It’s time to embrace that idea.

For more on this topic, please be sure to watch this week’s video, embedded with this blog post, and share your thoughts.

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