Let’s Ring in the New to Get Back to the Old

While reading a blog post by Dr. Kent Bottles I was struck by a quote from Lewis Mumford: 

“For most Americans, progress means accepting what is new because it is new, and discarding what is old because it is old. This may be good for a rapid turnover in business, but it is bad for continuity and stability in life. Progress, in an organic sense, should be cumulative, and though a certain amount of rubbish-clearing is always necessary, we lose part of the gain offered by a new invention if we automatically discard all the still valuable inventions that preceded it.”

Although Mr. Mumford has been gone awhile (22 years), part of his foresight, as I understand it, is that technology should serve humankind and not vice versa. The more things change the more things stay the same. Technology is infinitely more complex which makes it incumbent on IT and medical professionals that it serve to improve patient care and not worsen it. While I am jumping on the EMR (Electronic Medical Records) and Medical Social Media bandwagon, I am anxious to see that it is done in a manner that serves the patient more than me, the IT guy or the hospital where care is given. So many of the EMRs that I have sorted through as a provider makes patient care HARDER, not easier. Perhaps this will improve when, and IF, our different systems can talk to each other but now it is difficult to find labwork, tests, and pertinent history when wading through thirty pages of printed material that has nothing to do with the patient’s problem. The important stuff gets lost in the minutia.


The EMR train has left the station and we will ultimately all be on board (how many transportation idioms am I going to use in this blog…). I see Social Media as a means to better care for patients, specifically as a way to return to patient-centered care and much more importantly, to get on the bus of participatory care. In The Social Media Course a well-known advocate for patient participation in their own medical care, e-patient Dave, addressed the fact that patients are the most under-utilized resource in healthcare. The best clinical teachers I had in medical school taught me that if I listened to my patients, they would tell me what was wrong with them. After many years of medical practice I know with certainty that no truer words were spoken. With the wealth of information on the web physicians and patients can work together as partners, a manner of practicing medicine that has very little down side.

To get back to Mr. Mumford, my vision for the future of medicine includes accepting what is new because it brings us back to what is old–taking care of the individual patient (the old) by utilizing the new (Electronic records and social media) and in the process creating partnerships with patients as well as other physicians and healthcare providers. This doesn’t mean that my “partnered” patient will get the inappropriate antibiotic she insists is necessary. But it does mean that patients may once again see me as something other than a prescription supplier and test taker. Dialog is so much more satisfying than one-way conversation.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.