Day 43: The intersection of patient interaction and technology

Today’s inane image of the day:

Another image from my last trip to South Haven, MI — you’ll notice that on gloomy, rainy days, I just want to look at photos of beautiful, calming landscapes.

If you have ~20 minutes, please spend them watching Dr. Abraham Verghese’s Ted Talk — he’s an extraordinary speaker and the subject of his talk [human touch and the return to one-on-one physical examination] is extremely relevant to everyone [since all of us are patients ourselves!].

While I completely agree with Dr. Verghese‘s discussion of the importance of the physical examination [if this art is ever eliminated from the profession, medicine will have lost one of its most important tools], I also believe that there is also place for technology in patient interaction. I do realize that the talk is primarily encouraging the use of our five senses to their fullest potential and does not necessarily condemn the use of modern technology, so I fully agree with that. But I do also vehemently believe that we should expand upon this discussion, and consider how improvements in communication and imaging can further enhance the physical examination.

Dr. Verghese mentions sitting down with a patient and listening uninterrupted for 45 minutes [which is quite an accomplishment, seeing that he also cites that most physicians interrupt their patients in under a minute] to learn their story. I completely agree with this method of history taking — I know that when I am in the middle of a thought or am recounting a particular event, I need to just let the words flow or I’ll completely lose the trail I was on. I also understand how difficult it is to restrain oneself from interrupting to ask more questions, or for clarification. Either way, I believe there is also value in learning about a patient through online chatting or video conferencing. This goes along with the model that Dr. Jay Parkinson devised for his own practice [I secretly have a huge crush on Dr. Parkinson — his practice was an ingenius model] — if you’re unfamiliar with it, essentially, he never had a formal office, only made house calls, saw a limited number of patients a day, served only a couple of zip codes and used an online calendar to schedule all of his appointments. He was also available online for video conferencing. How incredible is this?!

Anyway, I’m just trying to point out that optimally, a physician would learn to use auditory and tactile signals in parallel with technology to provide the best care for their patients.

I am so excited to read Dr. Verghese’s book, Cutting for Stone — that is, when I find time to read non-medical-school-books…

Today’s medical school fact: “The arm has 4 muscles, 3 of which are in the anterior compartment [biceps brachii, coracobrachialis, brachialis] and one of which is in the posterior compartment [triceps brachii].” -From U41 of Dr. Bee‘s lecture slides

3 thoughts on “Day 43: The intersection of patient interaction and technology

  • September 27, 2011 at 5:44 am

    Nice post. I approve of the items mentioned herein.

    I can’t sleep since I napped all afternoon. Thank god for your blog.

    – CodeBlu

  • September 28, 2011 at 2:30 am

    @CB: Better get on a semi-normal sleep schedule soon… you’re starting work in 2 days!

  • September 28, 2011 at 3:15 am

    @amanda.eleven… please don’t remind me. And the reception sucks at the hospital… just a reminder.


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