Doctors, Patients, Old and New


There’s this tension that I pick up on when I talk with patients.  It’s the fantasy of the new and the old.

It’s the fantasy of the physician encounter where a doctor will look at us and never to a screen.  We insist on all of the affordances of the digital age with the human connection of a time gone by.  We want an intensely human connection but we want everything flawlessly documented, reviewed, flagged and cross-checked in the EHR.  We want to spend lots of time with the doctor but we also want to send an unlimited supply of emails (2,000 words, one paragraph).   We want desperately to be human but we glorify transhumanism.  We want to know that we have the ability to make decisions while at times we want our doctors to make the decisions.

We talk endlessly about the power of the story and the importance of patient narrative but we want desperately to be recorded, uploaded, graphed, and analyzed.  We don’t want to be seen as a number but we demand that our numbers are seen.  We insist on laws to protect our privacy yet we yearn to have our stories heard.  We worry lots about data and less about wisdom.  We want doctors who will stare, touch, talk, laugh and connect while at the same time remaining glued to a screen and available 24/7 in 140 characters.  We criticize those docs who refuse to accept the independent e-patient but we swoon when Abraham Verghese paints a romantic picture of 19th century paternalism.

We want the best of the analog and digital all rolled up into one.