Culture & Criticism Since 2003
“We currently live in a world of shallow medicine. Patients exist in a world of insufficient data, insufficient time, insufficient context, and insufficient presence.”
-Dr. Eric Topol
The practice of medicine has changed drastically over the course of the last quarter century, as cursory exchanges between doctors and patients have replaced the careful clinical examination (“shallow medicine” in Dr. Eric Topol’s vernacular). Consequently, the herd mentality that has overtaken today’s healthcare is drastically compromising patients, who often times are not heard by their providers.
Enter Topol, a leading cardiologist and the founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in San Diego. In Deep Medicine, Topol does more than just lament the problem; instead, he offers a possible solution to the dilemma, outlining an innovative model for the future of healthcare. In medical circles, Topol is a globally-renown physician who is always at the cutting-edge of patient care – bucking the status quo, promoting individualized medicine that empowers the patient with both knowledge and an active role in the treatment process.
In turn, Deep Medicine is about making these protocols the foundational ‘standard of care.’ Topol’s outline for transforming the way doctors interact with patients involves three steps. First off, the patient must be profiled, with all forms of data on the individual (medical records, family histories, DNA imprints) compiled and analyzed so that a real-time picture of the person is on record. The next installment involves deep learning, whereby doctors utilize machines for diagnosis and to direct patients to manage themselves through their healthcare journey. The third prong rises as a natural result of the first two steps: With the individuals now ‘identified’ and machines at work meeting the rote tasks inherent to the process, doctor and patient can finally reconnect on a personal level, wedded together to meet the particular needs of that individual.
Obviously, this book writes a truly visionary approach to the practice of medicine. But that’s just what Topol’s whole career has been about – opposing trends, looking for relevant ways to provide quality care to the patient. Some traditionalists will no doubt object to the progressive tone of this treatise, yet their dissent should be carefully weighed against the global state of healthcare.
One look and we see a system over-burdened, slowly unraveling. People are sicker, and costs are sky-rocketing. Moreover, if we are ever really going to reverse this course, new approaches must be implemented. Topol’s Deep Medicine unveils one such approach. Its in depth and impeccable presentation demonstrates why it warrants serious consideration by all of us.
See John Aiello’s January 2016 Review of Listening For What Matters: Avoiding Contextual Errors In Health Care by Saul J. Weiner and Alan Schwartz (Oxford University Press) here.