The Internet has threatened journalism. Clay Shirky has said that everyone is a media outlet. An Internet connection and blogging platform makes everyone a publisher. Can the mass professionalization of journalism be applied to medicine or health? Can access to a broadband connection outfit a citizen to think and act like a physician?
There are pieces of what physicians do that can be replicated, and other pieces that can’t. The technical things that doctors do can’t be replaced. Removing an appendix or replacing a heart valve, for example. Tough to pull off on CureTogether.
But what about the thinking? After all, patients have access to the same information, references, and literature as physicians.
Unfettered access to information can create an illusion. It can give us a false sense of control. In his provocative book, You Are Not a Gadget, Jaron Lanier tells us that “information is alienated experience.” And experience is the only process that can dealienate information. Or in the case of the infirm, it’s clinical judgment and experience that makes that myriad of medical literature applicable to an individual’s case.
To a degree.
Clearly personal technology will progressively put elements of disease control and maintenance into the hands of patients. Look at our friends with diabetes. What they do on their own could never have been predicted a generation ago.
So will the medical profession suffer the same fate as the newspaper industry? It shouldn’t although we all must recognize that the role of the physician is evolving. What physicians do a generation from now may be unrecognizable to today’s practitioner. Physicians need to shape their role proactively or risk having it shaped for them.
How physicians work with empowered patients in an increasingly controlled and technical medical world should be the subject of intense discussion. Meetings, panels, breakout sessions, deep dives and retreats should be dedicated to the subject. The profession doesn’t understand this. Higher medical education doesn’t understand this. Ultimately they will.
Or risk going the way of the newsman.