In a previous post, we highlighted Daniel Kraft’s TED Talk about the future of medicine. Kraft spoke of exciting breakthroughs just around the corner, like computers that can diagnose illness through a simple scan, doctors performing robotic surgeries from remote locations, once-complicated medical tests being performed on smartphones, and dozens of other advances to come.
Digital technology like this allows for better efficiency and better access, but, as Dr. Abraham Verghese argues, something also gets lost along the way. Verghese, a Stanford professor and Senior Associate Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, has been a long-time proponent of bedside medicine and improving the patient experience. He argues that when doctors order computerized tests instead of hands-on examinations, we lose “a ritual that [he believes] is transformative, transcendent, and is at the heart of the patient-physician relationship.”
For him, “entering medicine was a passionate quest, a romantic pursuit, a spiritual calling, a privileged yet hazardous undertaking.” Today, he argues, young people do not view medicine in this light, “in the sterile hallways of modern medical-industrial complexes, where physicians and nurses are hunkered down behind computer monitors, and patients are whisked off here and there for this and that test…”
Below is Dr. Verghese’s speech from TEDGlobal 2011, which took place last July. Through his life experiences and anecdotes from colleagues, Dr. Verghese reminds us of the importance of the trust and care behind the physician-patient relationship. In a culture so reliant on technology, he warns us that we mustn’t lose sight of “the power of the human hand.”