Many health innovators argue that future advances in health care will come from technological solutions. Things we can measure and quantify. Governments and health care providers are holding their breaths for a magic bullet that can easily, measure and thus fix everything.
People who advocate for technological health solutions think that it’s possible for doctors to routinely consult patients without touching them, or even looking them in the eye.
Stakeholders imagine that that health practitioners spend time with their patients simply to gather and process data. We imagine a future when a patient’s wearable device will be handed over to the doctor, who will have everything he needs to know and more, in order to treat any ill.
That is not to say that we should not innovate, or that technology will not enhance the encounter between patient and healer. However we do need to think about how those innovations will become part of that powerful ritual known as the medical consultation. Technology, high tech or low tech, needs to be incorporated in a way that responds to the person in distress. It should be seen as a means to an end, and not an end in itself. If information was all that was required to get people to adopt healthy choices then why do we make so many decisions that defy logic?
Science has identified that people act on impulse, are moved by emotion, or commit themselves to decisions because it makes them feel good even if they know it’s doing them harm.
The reality is that not everything that matters can be measured. Patients don’t just come to doctors to be fixed. As health care practitioners we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that what patients need as much, (if not more) than, instruments of measurement are instruments of connection.
Picture by Alberto Varela