I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a nerd (maybe even more than a bit) and I really enjoy reading venture capitalist blogs. One of my favorite reads is Fred Wilson. He posts something every day and he provides some amazing perspective on a lot of things. In a blog post a couple months back he posted the following quote, “programming these days is more about searching than anything else.”
For those of you who are not programmers in the room, you might be wondering how this applies to healthcare. Plus, you might be wondering if this statement is true. I assure you that it is true. The reason it’s true is three fold. First, the speed at which programming evolves is so quick that you have to be good at searching for the latest answer to your question. Second, the resources that are available online to answer those questions are phenomenal. You just have to know the right place to look. The amount of information you have to know to program is so great these days that it’s impossible for you to remember everything.
In many ways, all of these evolutions are a really great thing. As one tech friend of mine told me, “I realized pretty quickly that everything my company needs to know is already out there online. The value I bring is finding that information for them.”
I ask you then, “Will this happen in healthcare?”
I’d like to suggest that it’s already started to happen. I’ll never forget the doctor who visited my blog and commented that “the body of medical knowledge is so vast and complex that it’s impossible for the human mind to process it all.” Doesn’t that sound a lot like what I described above. The amount of medical knowledge and the speed at which it changes is impossible for someone to know and connect.
Is it possible that a future doctor will be better at searching for medical knowledge than they are at knowing that information off the top of their head? I think the answer is that they’ll have to be.
Don’t misunderstand me. Providers will still need an amazing baseline of information to be able to search and filter through the vast amount of data. However, they’ll likely remember where to find the answers versus knowing the answer off hand. Plus, their education and training will give them a baseline for understanding the data that they find. This is much the same as the programmer who know the basics, but learns more by searching and finding more information. The technology in this case doesn’t replace the person, but makes the person better.
I also feel the need to note that this won’t preclude other skills like empathy that are so important to the patient-provider relationship. You can’t use a tech search to help you show empathy to someone who’s just miscarried. Those skills will still be needed as much as ever. However, when it comes to medical knowledge I won’t be surprised if it becomes more about searching than anything else.