How IT is Changing the Doctor/Patient Relationship

IT is changing the traditional doctor/patient relationship in a number of important ways. Where once the patient had to set an appointment and travel to the doctor's office to get a health question answered, it is now possible to answer questions and address non-critical issues over the phone or email. And there will come a time, in the not too distant future, when remote monitoring of patients will reduce hospital time and save lives by notifying emergency medical services immediately, if there is a problem.
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The Internet is also removing the physician from the position of high priest of medical information.  People can now gather information that was once difficult of impossible for lay people to access. While some physicians may find this a bit disconcerting, and it does scramble the traditional medical information hierarchy a bit,  digital technology does offer the physician certain advantages. For example; the ability to keep patient records and transfer them easily from primary care to specialist means that patients can be treated more quickly and economically and with greater accuracy.

Some have complained that IT depersonalizes medical appointments, as the doctor may spend more time looking at a computer screen than at the patient. While some patients may not like this, modern medical diagnosis is a procedure run almost entirely through digital technology. It may be comforting to have the doctor whip out a stethoscope and listen to your heart, but it isn't really all that necessary. Even so, it is important for doctor and patient to act as a team and physicians should work to include the patient in the treatment process as much as possible. No one likes to be treated as an object and digital technology means that patients are more knowledgeable than ever before.

There is still work to be done. Medical record storage is not fully electronic, yet.  It's still possible for information to get lost in the file drawer, not be uploaded and create gaps in digital records. This is actually quite common and happens to one in three patients according to US Government reports.

The rapid advance of healthcare technology is actually moving faster than the healthcare industry can absorb the change. This leads to areas of the health infrastructure being electronically isolated and physicians being overwhelmed with an avalanche of information. Nevertheless, the information exchange that IT makes possible is a great leveler. Knowledge is power and while that knowledge may be incomplete, it does give physicians more control over treatment while giving patients the ability to work with their doctors as almost equal partners.

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