How much Technology is Enough Technology?

By now, everyone has an amazing Amazon story that defies all rules of reality. You purchased an expensive part, realized it was the wrong item, and the company sent you the right one free of charge. You returned a set of headphones and were refunded for the cost immediately before anyone even had the opportunity to assess the returned product. You woke up at 3am and realized that you need a zipline in the backyard, so you went ahead with the purchase, which arrived the next day. The stories are COUNTLESS. It's just mindblowing what Amazon can do these days.

So you can imagine my healthy level of concern (fear) when news arrived that Amazon is going into the health space. When do I start the countdown to early retirmement and pursuing my lifelong dream of becoming a party DJ? If amazon can defy rules of economics, what rules can it NOT defy? I mean, just take a look at the headline from this recent article (translated): "Amazon 360-reverse DUNKS on HIPAA." Once thought to be a major barrier against tech companies getting into the healthcare space, Amazon makes HIPAA compliance look like a walk in the park. Of course it does! It's Amazon, it can do anything!

But where does Amazon and technology become uncomfortable? When will we see a backlash from consumers, errr... patients? Just as healthcare is a privelege, is it also true that healthcare delivery has a sacramental dimension to it? Is it a space like a black hole that the likes of Amazon may enter, but never exit from? DISCLAIMER: I am a physician who actually works as a clinician on a daily basis and all indicators are that I still care about provide relationship-based care. Now with that said, let's hope that the answer to all these questions is a resounding rebuke of technology in medicine. 

For some time at Harmony Health MD, we tried our best to implement a robust telemedicine program. The thought is cool, you stare into your phone as the doctor while the patient stares into theirs, and the magic of the doctor-patient relationship is either borne or propagated. It seemed simple, but do you know what the problem was? The PHONE! It was like a third party had entered the conversation and subdued its nuanced undertones. Sure, it might be convenient, and perhaps one day we will actually utlize newer technology that is less bulky and more representative of space and time, but telemedicine is just not there yet as far as our standards go.

And the whole of relationship-based medicine is actually in great shape because, sooner or later, everyone will figure out that we cannot simply continue to pound our fists into the ground and achieve new feats with more technology. 10,000 years ago and today, the same truths still exist: there are 24 hours in a day and relationships are needed for good health. As more and more information is becoming available on the harmful effects of technology on our health, I suspect we will eventually take out the big red "REJECTED" stamp to projects attempting to take over the physician role in its traditional delivery, face-to-face, in deep thought and open communication.

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Author
Dr. Emil Avanes Physician Director at Harmony Health MD

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