This month the American Medical Association published an article asking Does Health Information Technology dehumanize the Doctor- Patient relationship?
This piqued my interest, as it runs parallel to health technology uptake failures in the UK and questions about quality of time patients spend with health professionals. It is often held that technology is a time-saver that will enhance the quality of those overstretched 15 mins encounters. The devil’s advocate will say that technology acts as a shield to hide behind.
The AMA reports, “Today’s “dehumanization” worry centers on documenting patient information on a computer. The truth is that excessive emphasis on documentation can occur even when a paper chart is used. We have all known doctors who kept their noses in the paper chart….Even a good tool can be used poorly.”
We need to remember that technology is a means to an end, not an end in itself. One IT provider maintains that the problems that arise are only ever 5% to do with the technology and it’s competencies. The other 95% is to do with changing people’s ways of doing things: including incentives, management and work practices.
We know that it is important to recognise the full scale of change management around implementing new shiny things, that clinical leadership, and most of all Patient engagement is crucial.
In terms of the question of dehumanisation, (or survival of relationships to you and me) as the ASA reaffirms – Paradoxically, we may be able to provide more personalized care than ever for our patients with technology.