As I a heart doctor honoring the American Heart Month( February ) I can not help it not to wonder about the future direction of healthcare. Almost everybody agrees that Heath-care is about relationships as some will ask, can you automate medicine, and is it going to be successful?
With automation you do not need doctors as they will be replaced with less paid ( Nurse Practitioners) , you do not need Nurses , as they would be replaced with less pay ( nurse aids), you do not need pharmacists, as they would be replaced by Pharmacy Technicians and so on ans so forth, you get the idea. This is already happening in so many places and would certainly have inevitable adverse consequences to the entire community. So many young doctors are switching to non-clinical careers as they are done with Medicine and do not want to have further burnout after finishing long years of training with big burden of student loans which they need to pay off fast as these loans usually have very high interest rates in a time we are suffering critical physician shortage.
Automation is also taking place as you see in banking, checking out in shopping centers as so many jobs are lost such as the check out cashier and the person who helps customers bag their groceries and thank them for their business. In case of Healthcare, it is difficult as you need the human interaction , empathy and sympathy with patients as they don not need to see a Robot but rather some one to talk to and listen to them without being rushed out from the exam room.
This special doctor-patient relationship is what makes patients feel comfortable , relaxed thus combating anxiety and would certainly lead to better Health Outcome measured by many parameters ( patients feel better, save lots of out of pocket money spent as a result of less or no ER visits or costly hospitalization and procedures, more personal satisfaction,..etc). Now with internet accessible from mobile phones, patients compare doctors , prices and customer service instantly. After all, their Health is most valuable commodity. So, there has to be a balance between the automation of Medicine and the essential role of those relationships which will foster the best health outcome.
Talking about the ( Heart Month) , patients are really searching for the compassionate caring doctor who has the Heart , knowledge and skills to help his patients. So many patients complain about the lack of sincere care as I joke with my patients who sometimes talk about other medical and non-medical issues such as their jobs, aspiration, challenges, frustration, sadness, damage to their homes by a sink hole, storm, flood or hurricane, marriage, kids as some ask for my advice. Those patients before leaving the office and start the medications prescribed, they would say ( Doc, I feel better already!)
We owe it to our patients to do our very best to help them, establish direct healthy patient / doctor relationship without the third party control or hassle. It is what people need and want and it is the right thing to do. That is why we made our Motto for our Direct Care Medicine program going on its 6th year as (We bring the Heart back in Medicine). Without the human interaction, passion for helping people, fight disease, save them big ,give them hope to uplift them through tough times which more and more people are going through these days. February is also the time to honor Black History Month by working hard to narrow the disproportionately high incidence of Heart disease ,strokes and kidney Failure among African Americans through healthy nutrition , education and fighting poverty.There is so much need out there.
No Robot will be able to replace your caring doctor, but a successful strategy will be combing the most effective affordable technology with the caring element to deliver the best care from the Heart. This is true not just on Valentine Day, or during the Heart Month but valid strategy all year round.