A JAMA article this week proposes the a new specialty, the medical virtualist. But the suggestion that the virtual connection of doctors and patients will be restricted enough to be a medical specialty is shortsighted.
The medium does not define the doctor
Because the medium doesn’t define the doctor. In fact, it should be the other way around. Communication platforms that connect doctor and patient have yet to define novel avenues of medical specialty. When the telephone first made its appearance we didn’t have telephonists. Emailists and textists have yet to materialize as specialties.
Clearly there are considerations surrounding the delivery of care in all new forms of information transmission. What we do via teleconnection isn’t entirely intuitive. The future will call for a new set of literacies for doctors.
And to the point of the authors, the use of these tools must find their way into the curricula from undergraduate medical education to CME. In the very short-term we will need those who have used these tools to share their experiences. Technology will evolve in parallel to make the connection between doctor and patient more natural. Until then, every doctor will master the medium. Once the medium is mastered, it will just be part of the background.
The medical virtualist as a headline grabber
Scroll through the 800 posts here and you’ll see me quite clearly as a technooptimist – I love where medicine is headed but I also recognize that as leaders have a responsibility to balance vision with eye-grabbing hype. There’s a future for physicians who leverage the technology coming into our hands. And this technology will help redefine how and what we do.
As disappointing as it may be to some, there is no future for the medical virtualist. And real futurists recognize that virtual will be the new norm in medicine.
Just like telephones.
Image modified from Serra Qendra / Flickr