|Published in 1982, relevant in 2012.|
In The Social Transformation of American Medicine, Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Starr outlines a medical history wherein doctors were exemplars of professional sovereignty: authoritative, powerful, "unambiguously important to their clients," nourishing their "thirst for reassurance."
Mastery of their profession was easy when doctors' heads were the sole repository of medical information, when medical error rates were not measured or published, and when a doctor's reputation was respected a priori, rather than questioned a Google. Patients had to come to them, in person. With no conceivable alternative, they had to bestow upon them their trust.
Unfortunately, that trust has eroded. Is there a way for physicians to retake their profession?
Simply put, professional mastery tracks with information mastery. In the 1980's, the two cohered: a doctor could master books and journals in a way patients couldn't dream, and control of the profession was unquestioned. Today, the digital explosion has left doctors playing catch-up, with patients arriving at the office with their own list of Web-derived diagnoses.
To retake the profession is to regain information mastery, which is to attain digital dominance: Doctor digitus.
In The Creative Destruction of Medicine, Eric Topol writes about Homo digitus, where the bright future of healthcare is a convergence of patients' digital and bodily selves. For Topol and others, the future of health is digital. Digital digital digital.*
What can Doctor digitorus do?
1- Outperform Google by giving patients the background information on their diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis from good, clear sources created by doctors and/or vetted by doctors.
2- Outperform alternative medicine by connecting with, communicating with, and supporting patients' need to feel empowered and in control of their health future.
3- Outperform scorecard medicine in magazines and online, where reputations hang on the caprices of frustration and marketing, by establishing a robust online presence that drowns out healthgrades.com.
4- Outperform distractions by creating engaging apps and other tools that encourage patients to maintain healthy behavior patterns, from diet and exercise to adhering to treatment regimens.
5- Outperform voter apathy and discontent by using modern media to promote the mission of medicine.
6- Outperform the past with quality improvement tools that measure and highlight avenues to decrease medical errors and avoid avoidable care.
7- Outperform the pace of knowledge-creation with tools that curate valid medical breakthroughs that matter clinically.
8- Outperform traditional medical education by teaching with digital tools.
Every one of these steps involves mastery of digital tools. Which have I left out?
*Don't take it from me, check out some of my favorites