TED Conversations

Carol Harnett

Chairperson, Health & Performance Innovation Institute


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In our move toward the "quantified self" when we regard our health and the health of others, are we ignoring the importance of rituals?

I am a writer, speaker and consultant on health, especially in the employed population. Employer-based health care initiatives are almost blinded by metrics. As a strong advocate for well-designed research, I understand this drive. But I am getting worried that we are missing something.
- How should the rituals of human touch, observation and conversation fit into our assessment and understanding of health?
- What are we missing by focusing almost exclusively on data and metrics?


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  • Sep 27 2011: When I went to medical school, My professors in a bid to drive home the importance of observation, always stressed that the diagnosis of an ailment in a patient begins the moment he/she walks in through the door of your clinic. I strongly agree. There is nothing more soothing for a patient than to have a comforting presence, a patient listener who empathizes and a warm arm around the shoulder when he/she is confiding their darkest fears and being completely vulnerable. The greatest offering our patients give us is their absolute faith and trust . Touch, observation and conversation are 3 vital elements to establishing a successful doc-patient relationship. Without this humane approach, we physicians would cease to be " healers" in the true essence of the word.

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