Undoubtedly, research and technology have helped the medical fraternity tremendously. They have also spawned varied careers like medical transcription for instance. Telemedicine too holds the promise of fostering health care in remote areas where previously there was none. That is one aspect. The other is using it to obtain specialist treatment, where previously it was imperative that a doctor see the patient first.
The more cases a doctor sees for himself, the more experience he gets. Relying on a machine to diagnose symptoms might make those skills a trifle rusty. The most crucial aspect in a doctor–patient relationship also gets lost–interpersonal communication. For, sometimes it is also the reassurance and moral support a patient looks for when he pays a visit to the doctor. An impersonal doctor can be as intimidating as the disease. How do doctors feel then?
Dr Ashwin Dikshit, a Pune based nephrologist, feels that there are always pluses and minuses and a good doctor would incorporate the best of both to strike a balance. “Technology helps tremendously of course. Telemedicine is helping many patients both in rural and remote areas to avail of health care facilities where previously there were none. So you can’t say that technology is entirely wrong. But it can never replace a doctor completely. You can never treat a patient successfully without seeing him first especially in specialized cases. Also, a doctor–patient relationship cannot just be left to technology. Some interaction has to be there”, says Dr Dikshit. As a nephrologist he needs to be finely attuned to new strides in technology but draws the line when it intrudes into his relationships with patients.
Admittedly, it’s easy to get awed by the wonders of technology. The feeling is shared by laypersons too, who might feel more comfortable if their doctor knew about recent developments or had the latest gadgetry. Says Bhavesh Sampat, a software professional in Pune, “Doctors are getting more dependent on technology but at the same time there is no denying that new equipment and techniques do have higher accuracy. Yes, machines can make mistakes, but then so can doctors. Instead, doctors should ideally use technology to complement their knowledge. I would definitely feel more comfortable going to a doctor like that”.
A machine. Is that where all the action is? Well, it’s more of a half and half. Better still, if it’s allowed to remain this way. Otherwise pessimistic money games and too many specializations will simply make doctors lose out what their patients seek the most–their touch.