I recently read this Washington Post article on doctors and technology. It took an angle that most of my readers are accustomed to. Doctors at the precipice of major change. Early adopters versus the old guard. ‘Welcome to the new age of medicine.’
More compelling than the close up photograph of Natasha Burgert’s desk (I’m secretly obsessed with people’s workspaces) I was struck by this quote from Dr. Raoul Wolf. Concerned with the ‘permanence of online information,’ Dr. Wolfe, by report, doesn’t use any kind of social media. His rationale: “With anything on the Internet, it’s there forever. There’s no calling it back. Ask any politician.”
Buried in the story, this quote’s remarkable not in how unexpected it is but rather in how we’ve come to just expect technopessimism from the medical community. Isolated in their world, doctors avoid what they don’t understand. And quietly banking on the belief that the digital age and all its change represents a fad that will pass just as quickly as it came, they sit and wait.
It shouldn’t be this way. Physicians should own this space where health meets technology. Dr. Wolf is correct that web permanence can create problems for the reckless, but it also can create vast opportunity for those who understand its power and limitations. The promise of digital medicine should have us in a new frame of mind. And when they’re not creating and experimenting with media for the hungry health consumers of a new world, young medical students should be hacking, innovating, designing and dreaming the future of health care. We should be blazing new paths, not working to cover our tracks.
But we watch as a new world moves quickly around us. Dated beliefs, an ingrained culture of fear and the refusal to do anything differently than a century ago has the medical profession on the fast track to yesterday.
While this Washington Post story profiled the technological foresight of Natasha Burgert and others, an equally interesting story comes from those unwilling to be involved.