The Pureed Physician

April 10, 2012

My friend Lukas Zinnagl at Medcrunch recently posted The Chopped Physician.  It’s a short piece on the evolving role of the physician.  I’m not sure that I agree with Lukas’ division of responsibilities but that’s not important.  What’s important is that things will soon enough be really, really different.  It’s important because the next generation will witness a redefinition of the physician never before seen.  We need to think about what’s coming.

Lukas used a chopped physician analogy.  I would have pureed the profession and studied the layers as they settle out.  But that’s just me.

Doctors used to do everything.  But now, no doctor does everything.  We like to tell ourselves we can do everything.  Our patients think we can still do everything.  That’s where the problem lies.

Doctors used to be able to learn what was known about medical science inside of a couple of years.  And doctors used to be able to keep up with advances in our fields by quaintly ‘catching up on our journal reading.’  Not so much anymore.  The way doctors train, think and work is unsustainable.  Ultimately how we think, work, share and define ourselves will need to change.

That’s why we’ll be chopped.  Or pureed.

Few doctors like being chopped.  To some, it questions our relevance.  But what few are able to see is that we’ll always be relevant, but in ways that will only become evident over time.  I suspect things will appear worse before they’re better.

Lucas’s simple post is important because I don’t think we spend enough time looking at what’s happening around us.  We need more dialog about how we need to actively evolve.  We need medical educators to think about the physician and the patient of 2030.  We need less dialog about medicine in the old days.

We have a couple of choices:  We can shape our profession or let it be shaped.  We can reshape or be chopped.  But as time and progress sweep us forward, I suspect we’ll be chopped.

Image is via Hamilton Beach.  Inside the blender are the pureed remains of MedCrunch co-founder, Dr. Franz Wiesbauer.


Bob West April 10, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Hafta agree. And unfortunately for all, medical schools are the last to get the point.

Terry Kind @Kind4Kids April 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Depends on what ingredients you’ve got, which ones are within reach, which ones you put in the mix, and to some degree in what order and proportions. Moreover, a puree is smooth, and blended is nice, but caution not to spread to thin.

Your post made me think, thanks.

lukas April 10, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Thanks a lot Bryan for the very personal reference. Especially towards Franz.

I think the single most important sentence in your post is this one

“We need medical educators to think about the physician and the patient of 2030.”

At least what I can tell from Europe, those do not exist. There is a bunch of physicians thinking about how social media will transform a physician’s life, but few think about actual education.

By “actual” I mean who work closely with universities, who actually develop new teaching models, not just use an iPad in class. But disruptive, radical new ideas of how medicine can be taught.

A friend of mine recently told me, that after his current startup, what he really wants to do is build a great great “educational entity”. Not a school, not a university, but something that teaches your for life. He went to Harvard and presumably went to one of the best schools in the world and still he felt that urge on a superficial level.

We need people who feel that urge on a medical educational level, who write books about it and who start schools.

Aaron Stupple April 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Yeah, the chopped bit wasn’t really for me, though I am sorry to see what your model has done to Dr. Franz Wiesbauer.

We really have to talk more systematically about what the medical profession is and what it should be.

Franz Wiesbauer April 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm

I totally agree with your point Bryan that mixers will become an essential tool of the medical educational system of the future. From what I understand, you think about this topic a lot lately. Would be awesome to hear more of your thoughts in a MedCrunch Skype-Interview!

Geoff Braden April 11, 2012 at 8:09 pm

I read the MedCrunch article written by Lukas and Bryan’s post on 33 Charts. I would much rather be pureed than chopped up. At least if I become pureed there will be a smoothness to the process. All kidding aside, I still think a doc can function at the highest level, but it comes at the exclusion of friends, family life and other pursuits. If one strives to work in all 3 worlds as described in the article, medicine which is already an all consuming profession will require total effort 24/7. The role of the physician will change but if we have a good fund of knowledge and well defined, analytical/deductive reasoning skills we will always be part of the solution.

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