Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
High Tech and High Touch - Finding Balance

High Tech and High Touch - Finding Balance

high-tech-and-high-touch-finding-balance- image0In speaking to a group of employees recently, we discussed our increasingly technology-driven society and how it affects our everyday lives and the practice of medicine. Society is changing its view toward the use of technology. For example, in one recent survey, nearly 90 percent of respondents indicated they wanted their physicians to communicate electronically. Patients are saying, in effect, they want high-tech doctors. Texas Tech Physicians is striving to be high-tech. As you know, we have a patient portal—we encourage our patients to contact us via the portal. Patients can now update health and demographic information, request appointments and prescriptions, receive test results, and communicate via secure messaging. This very week, my wife was waiting on a test result after seeing one of our doctors. I said, “Check the portal.” The results were there and she was pleased with the speed and convenience of obtaining results.

Speaking of high-tech, we also have several surgeons who recently completed fellowships in minimally invasive surgery. A few years ago, I had a laparoscopic cholecystectomy performed at UMC by one of our surgeons on a Friday and came back to work on Monday. It was pretty cool. I compare this to when I started in hospital administration and a cholecystectomy meant six weeks of usually difficult recovery time. Another thing, we have several surgeons who are using the new da Vinci robotic system at UMC. Others are preparing to do so.

On the other hand, I think our patients want compassion and, to an extent, creature comforts. That includes needing face-to-face time with their physicians, a friendly staff, comfortable waiting (and minimal waits.) People want both—technology and touch. Not much of a surprise there. So, we reconcile our high-touch values with our high-tech realities.

Do you remember the fictional character Leonard McCoy, M.D., of Star Trek? Dr. McCoy was a self-described country doctor on a 23rd century starship. He was not particularly impressed with technology--- for example, Dr. McCoy was especially suspicious of the "transporter" (the machine that converted a person into energy and then transporting the person to his destination where he was rematerialized.) Dr. McCoy believed that the key to good medicine was the doctor patient relationship. He preferred less invasive treatment, although he used the 23rd century technology. Sure, it was just a TV program, I understand that, but maybe Dr. McCoy had it right. High tech and high touch.

Conclusion of the column? Let’s go high tech when it makes sense…yet, never forget that acts of kindness and basic courtesies to our patients which are equally important.