A Dialogue between a Scientist and a Humanist

DNA_sequencingOne of my favorite exchanges at Millennial Medicine was the dialogue between Eric Topol and Tom Cole about Topol’s “4 S’s”: scanning, sequencing, sensors, and social media. Topol argued that these four fields have become sufficiently mature that we can now digitize human beings, and he outlined the positive results of this revolution for patient care. (Our student Amol Utrankar provided a great summary of this and other presentations, for those who missed them. And we’ll be posting videos of all of the talks by the end of next week – watch this space for more details.) But Tom Cole, Director of the UT McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics, thought Topol had missed a few S’s: Story, Spirituality, and Suffering – all crucial dimensions of the patient experience that came up at different times in the course of the symposium. This led to a wonderful dialogue in which Eric Topol expanded on his argument to say that, indeed, one of the effects of the digital revolution may be that it frees up doctors to focus on the more human aspects of providing health care: human to human contact.

The take-home lesson: digital medicine can foster improved doctor-patient communication, both through online tools and by making space for direct personal engagement. As usual, it’s not an either-or.

The even bigger take-home message: digital medical humanities can help create better health care for the e-patients of the 21st century. Scientists and humanists: let’s keep the conversation going!

One thought on “A Dialogue between a Scientist and a Humanist

  1. Thank you for bringing Millennial Medicine to Houston and most importantly for sharing with an enthusiastic, engaged virtual audience. Aren’t we lucky to have a global community that has taken digital medicine and its ability to inspire patients and physicians with new technology and ways of communicating that did not previously exist just a few short years ago.

    Take a look at one of the early postings from Dr Topol less than a year ago and see how far we’ve come. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-j-topol-md/health-technology_b_1610684.html .

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