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: Technology, data, metrics and the entire gamut of evidence based medicine devices have been touted as being a means to the end of the goal of cure . But in today's era of corporate healthcare do these means justify the end? My answer is no.In fact it is a vicious circle. With information explosion, and doctors who neglect the importance of conversation, patients sue and file litigations and to escape this, doctors have come to excessively rely on laboratory investigations and now practise what is infamously known as defensive medicine. If only physicians would spend an extra few minutes communicating with patients, it would save everyone involved a lot of headache and money. No doubt laboratory investigations serve as a valuable tool for diagnosis, yet as physicians we must not forget that unlike the corporate honchos sitting in their plush offices and counting profits, patients are not statistics, they are human beings.
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      Sep 28 2011: Hi again Deborah,
      I was thinking about your comment on the use of evidence-based medicine. I think the concepts of observations, conversation and touch can be successfully combined with the application of evidence-based medicine from the standpoint of applying the best treatment for the patient.
      Evidence-based medicine's focus was meant to primarily make certain that the patient was receiving the best care for his/her situation and was meant to avoid treatments that had no impact or did harm. Coincidentally, sometimes that saves money for the health care system, too.
      • Sep 29 2011: I do agree with the fact that it would be ideal to combine the best of both worlds for a patient - a physician's people skills and medical technology. Sadly this is not what we see happening. What I deeply resent is how by ordering needless investigations, incompetent physicians hide under the cloak of medical technology or order these investigations because that is what rakes in the cash.I am a strong advocate of medical technology for patient healthcare since it would be foolish to solely rely on physical examination to arrive at a diagnosis. However, the need of the hour is to rein in unregulated and unjustified over use of investigations which are only burning a crater in the patient's pocket while doing nothing to relieve him/her of their suffering.

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