Fear not, Stephen Wilkins’ new blog post could be construed as Luddite, but we’re totally on his side. He was prompted to write after Lloyd Dean, president and CEO of the San Francisco-based healthcare system, Dignity Health, announced something called the Dignity Health and Box Patient Education App Challenge. Dean is quoted in the announcement as saying:
“We recognize the immense potential that (health information) technology has to enhance our patients’ care and overall experience.”
Wilkins then asks, “Immense potential compared to what?”
Excellent question. Wilkins goes on to compare the difference that an actual patient interaction can make. Apps aside, when a patient goes in to see a doctor, there are on average 4-5 topics discussed. Each one of these topics is an opportunity for the doctor to make a difference in the patient’s life. By Wilkins’ math, and the quantity of visits, the opportunities are astounding. More so than an app can offer.
And we agree. Technology companies sit in another odd business position. Part of their job is to make their product indispensable, so they can make money. But do we want to see a world where technology “replaces” face-to-face” interaction, or bolsters it?
Personally, we value technology that improves on actual office visits. If we can see a patient for their diabetes, and be able to tweet with them to check in on after dinner levels, that’s cool. Our Atlas.md EMR facilitates these types of interactions. However, we can’t imagine living in a world where diabetics only talk to a doctor via a computer or smartphone. There’s a tangible empathy lacking in that vision. Oh well, maybe we’re some real Luddites. So it goes. We still believe in the power of a good conversation to empower patients to take care of themselves. Remember, as great as we are as doctors, patients need to trust us and follow our treatment plans in order to move our patient-doctor relationship forward. If we fail patients, we lose their trust, meaning we need to get it together on our end. And, even if we make the right diagnosis and prescribe the proper treatment, our patients need to trust us enough to see it through. And that’s where the in-person interaction will always trump a tweet or text message.