This Scientific American post on communications and storytelling is worth a peek. More than ever, how we translate the technical developments in medicine and healthcare impacts the independent decisions made by patients.
The 23andMe dialog has shown that individuals believe they can educate themselves about the subtleties of personal genomic analysis. But patients have no hope of self-education without information that’s been reliably translated. While I believe patients have a right to their data, I also believe they have a right and some obligation to understand what it means.
What’s key is that access to information can’t be equated with the assimilation of knowledge. This can only be facilitated through an individual with the capacity to communicate.
As medicine becomes increasingly precise and automated, some question what will become of the doctor. Here’s a crazy idea: perhaps they can get really good at explaining things. The last time I checked, doctor meant teacher. And I suspect it will be a few years before IBM Watson will be able to entertain patients through a touching, personally-tailored, contextually sensitive story.
(It’s worth noting that some of the most gifted and effective translators/communicators/storytellers/teachers in my sphere are not doctors.)
Writing is important to this discussion. Understanding different formats of communications for the digital audience is critical. But the skill sets of the 21st century communicator must go beyond writing to include a working knowledge of different media. The conversion of medical wisdom into different digital media that can be tagged and retrieved should represent a key function of this century’s physician.
And I love Montgomery’s suggestion: ‘we must never forget that language itself is a rarefied form of technology.’