Putting the Human Back in Healthcare

This week I want to share two articles about utilizing compassion and empathy in healthcare. The first article is about how while artificial intelligence (AI) may be smarter, physicians bring the human element into healthcare. The second article is about how physicians speak—what they say and tone of voice—can lead to better care.

AI Will Be Smarter Than Physicians 

AI is a powerful resource used in all aspects of medical care and soon it will be smarter than physicians. While this may sound like medical treatment will be cold and dystopian, that does not have to be the case. AI is powerful because it has the capability to process complex data at a rate and scale that humans are not capable of. However, this leaves room for physician roles to shift gears into focusing on the human aspect with technology as a highly efficient assistant.

Mark’s Thoughts:
“Complexity will not go away. Data will continue its assault on our cognitive skills. A solution is to recognize that the role of the clinician is shifting to something that might appeal to Hippocrates and patients. It’s the role of the compassionate clinician—empowered by technology’s cognitive prowess—to provide the basis for a new medical paradigm.” I have heard from multiple forward-thinking clinicians that technology will not replace the physician but instead add to their knowledge base & efficiency so they can focus on the more “human” aspect of delivering care. Nobody truly knows the overall and lasting impact of technology, but one thing we know for sure—with the amount of information compounding daily, making it actionable becomes increasingly difficult without some help. Here are some additional resources to read/consider:

5 powerful words you can say to patients

While a big part of a health care professional’s job is to diagnose patients, an important aspect that sometimes gets overlooked is communication. In other words, being compassionate and reassuring to the patient in a time of need is just as important as determining what is wrong with them. Patients want to feel that their doctor cares about them and offering reassuring words, such as “It’s going to be OK,” is a great place to start.

Mark’s Thoughts:
I’ll give away the punchline—the five words are “It’s going to be OK.” But invest one minute and read the entire op-ed from this internal medicine physician about how a clinician’s words, tone and attitude can have an uplifting (or the complete opposite) result on someone faced with health questions. “I truly believe that over 90 percent of our everyday job as a physician involves being a good communicator.” He’s not wrong. Some very helpful input from two clinicians:

Annie Marsh, a FNPc (Family Nurse Practitioner) in Utah: “I volunteer at a free clinic treating patients without insurance and who are in poverty. I’ve found that on average they are more afraid as their health literacy is lower than a traditional clinic. This reassurance for them is key. I had a patient yesterday that I told she was going to be ok several times AND she was still worried.”

Brittney Buse, a Medical Director in CA: “you have to remember though that there is a lot of fear in the culture of medicine on the provider end as well, what if I say “it’s going to be ok” and it’s not, will I be sued? will the patient accuse me of being insensitive? While everyone knows I am a strong proponent of changing the dialogue of medicine, not everything falls on individual doctors when the whole system is broken.”

To read everything on my mind this past week, please visit me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/marks-musings-august-5-mark-rxprofessor-pew/.

Until next week,