Doctor-Patient Relationships in the Modern Era
[Can We Talk – A Collaborative Shift in Bedside Manner?]
By Mario Moussa
By Jennifer Tomasik
Star Trek fans have seen the future of medicine.
Leonard McCoy, also known as “Bones,” describes himself as a “simple country doctor,” although he plies his trade using 23rd-century medical technology. A deeply caring humanist, Bones often spars with the hyper-logical Spock—half human, half Vulcan. But as the Star Trek saga unfolds through The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and finally Voyager, Star Fleet physicians become increasingly rational and less recognizably human. The Voyager’s “Doctor” is no person at all. “He” is an infallible computer program designed to mimic compassion, self-assurance, and other soulful qualities.
Today, when patients communicate through instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook, and other Web 2.0 electronic mediums, they might feel that health providers are already more like the virtual “Doctor” than the all-too-human “Bones.”
Before long, according to one technology expert, 20% – 50% of all doctor-patient communication will be virtual. But we suggest you pause before rocketing ahead into this brave new future that advocates call Health 2.0—the application of social media tools to the health care environment.
Electronic technology in all of its forms has obviously had a profound impact on medicine. We focus here on just one of its most notable effects: the changing doctor-patient relationship. We believe Health 2.0 has the potential to deepen this relationship—or not. It depends on how you use it.
There are an almost overwhelming number of social media tools for managing the doctor-patient relationship. How do you choose the right ones? We offer some guidance in this essay by focusing on three issues:
- What matters most in the doctor-patient relationship?
- What counts as a good relationship?
- How should you use social media tools to build a relationship?
We have found that there is no one best way to use Health 2.0 technology. But there is just one rule. As the novelist E.M. Forster said, “Only connect.”
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