THE DOCTOR / PATIENT ENCOUNTER–TECHNOLOGY  &  AND  ITS  LIMITS

American Psychological Association (APA). “Falling off the wagon with Facebook.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 August 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150806112510.htm>.

The American Psychological Association’s piece cited above points to an important phenomenon of which we should all be aware–namely technology has its limits. Of course this is not to demean or diminish the incredible benefits that computers and access to instantaneous information and communication has brought to society as we know it.  It is virtually impossible to recall just a few years back when we did not possess smart phones, or any portable means of communication for that matter.

The point of this study is to remind us that technology still has its limitations.  We are still inherently social beings who have evolved to interact with each other in close proximity. Body language, facial expressions, subtle emotional responses to close in dialogue represent a dance between who individuals. The give and take often occurs on a subliminal level. Our ability to “read” others is a gift that some of us possess to a higher degree than others.  Face to face encounters are different from computer based and I will openly  risk the wrath of my more technologically savvy colleagues to propose that they always will be so.

So will telemedicine ever replace the office visit? Will it be used as a less satisfying but potentially helpful supplement to the patient-doctor encounter?

 Perhaps I only fantasize that my personal encounter with patients within the sanctity of the closed exam room cannot be adequately duplicated by technology. Perhaps it is only withful thinking that some of my success in the practice of medicine is related as much to those interpersonal skills as to raw medical knowledge.

Perhaps I remain the Luddite in the white coat.  Or at least I remain skeptical of its ability to replace the personal encounter.  Only time will tell.

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