Some good commentary by David Liu on Vinod Khosla’s almost messiah-like belief that technology can solve healthcare problems and improve outcomes. While I have a great belief in the enabling power of technology, I cannot think of any example where technology alone has solved any major and complex social, economic or environmental issue (readers can correct me here by sharing examples). Humans and society are too complex. Quote:
Health and medical care is an incredible intersection of technology, science, emotions, and human imperfections in both providing care and comfort. As conference speaker Dr. Aenor Sawyer, an orthopedic surgeon from UCSF noted, we need to figure out how to have our different cultures of doctors, gamers, designers, and technologists interact. Fixing health care is more than simply “we know the problem and we know the solution”. She reflected that the level of dedication, perseverance, and a willingness to make impact among the different groups demonstrates more similarities than differences.
I know health care can’t simply be solved by smart people in Silicon Valley alone. To solve health care we need everyone to collaborate. As Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson noted in her book Teaming –
“For over a century, we’ve focused too much on relentless execution and depended too much on fear to get things done. That era is over…human and organizational obstacles to teaming and learning can be overcome…Few of today’s most pressing social problems can be solved within the four walls of any organization, no matter how enlightened or extraordinary… Generating ideas to solve problems is the currency of the future; teaming is the way to develop, implement, and improve those ideas.”
And an equally nuanced discussion by Howard Luks on how technology will change the role of doctors over time. My sense is that this change may vary depending on the nature and expectations of patients; some may be more content with the traditional ‘doctor knows best’ approach, others may go the other way and ‘compete’ with the expertise and experience of doctors, but most of us will end up somewhere in the middle.
The advent of technology in healthcare in recent years has extended beyond the one-way measures designed for patient and professional convenience, like electronic charting, e-scripts and looking up test results. Now, patients, themselves, can do their research online, unearth information from consumer-driven TV marketing, and use apps designed to track, treat and prevent ill health. This has shifted the physician role to one of interpreter, advisor and coach. Dr. Robert Rowley, a family practice physician in Hayward recently wrote, “Patients, when they come to the doctor seeking health care, aren’t necessarily looking for ‘raw data’ – they have already looked it up online. Instead, they are looking for meaning.” This role shift severs the patriarchal, hierarchical, authoritative relationship that physicians have traditionally had (or were perceived to have had) with their patients. And that’s a good thing. While doctors will retain the utmost expert medical understanding due to their training and extensive experience, with a more collaborative approach comes the patient’s vested interest in their well-being. This can only serve to improve the health of many.