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Hand to mouse syndrome- Are we losing the healing touch?

With recent advances in technology and rapid revolution in scientific innovations, medical science is presently witnessing the dawn of a new era of diagnostics and therapeutics. It is undoubtedly true that technology has added a new dimension to health care delivery. It has not only sharpened diagnostic capabilities to a razor’s edge, but also improved therapeutic capabilities to laser precision.

Globally there is an increasing trend of clinical practitioners who would be spending more time in front of their computers analyzing reports of their patients, with their hand on the mouse and eye contact with the screen. With growing evidence and improved technology, clinicians are relying more on biochemical assessments and radiological imaging rather than clinical diagnostic maneuvers such as palpation, which may in these scenarios have a lower sensitivity and specificity.

Hand to mouseThese changing trends are even obvious in teaching techniques or books on approach to patients, which have shifted emphasis to stronger evidence based technological analysis and assessments. Furthermore, reports from imaging, laboratory tests, vital signs, and prescriptions are often presented onto the computer screens of treating consultants, which may obviate the need to establish clinical communication with patients. This approach may end up reducing the patient to a mere icon on the screen.

In this new age of health care delivery, the pertinent questions that arise are – are we increasingly becoming dependent on and being driven by technology? And, would these changing trends pose a threat to cripple the very foundation of clinical examination through a very unique method of patient doctor communication which we call the healing touch. May be it is time to take a re-look on where do we draw the line!

Physician touch is part of the medical consultation from both a technical and healing viewpoint. Procedural and expressive touch have shown to improve communication between the doctors and patient, promote patient well being, provide reassurance and instill confidence.

While it is well known that technological advancements have improved health care service, it can be used as a complementing tool to the healing touch of a doctor. This will serve as a adjunct to clinical diagnosis and assessment, and the impact of such an approach cannot be underestimated. There is an increasing need for a marriage between technology and spirit to complete the goal of healthcare service. This would only serve to provide fulfillment and assurance to patients, further to the technological affirmations of numerically diagnosed ailments.

A doctor’s iTouch is an invaluable component of doctor–patient communication, that they should use to convey a healing affirmation from technology to the ailing spirit of the patients.

The writer is Senior Consultant Oncologist- Head and Neck Surgeon, Bengaluru.

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