By Christopher Cullen
While it can be joyous personally, reminiscing can be a professional liability. The good old days were great, but they are gone. It is time to shape and embrace the new good old days.
My father was a primary care physician, he was called a GP, for General Practitioner, my brothers are also doctors but GP wasn’t an option for them—they are in Family Practice. My dad was one of the good old days’ doctors, he believed he could be a better doctor when he cared for your grandmother, delivered and cared for your mother, and delivered you, stitched your cuts and set your bones. He became the most knowledgeable person regarding your family DNA and health. That’s just not possible anymore. The restrictions on what Family Practitioners can do, the regulations, the insurance companies, the paperwork, the hours, the routing re-certifications, the expenses, the pharmaceuticals and the technologies have made the good old days all but disappear.
Artificial and augmented intelligence are already being used in medical practices and possible future applications are being aggressively pursued. Physicians must not only embrace the new technologies but wrangle them, and to re-engineer each innovation to serve patients first. Profit is not a bad word, it just shouldn’t be the first word in medical innovation. The past is behind us, but what made the good old days good, must be retained—personal, patient-paramount expert medical attention.
One organization has diagnosed this dynamic perfectly and the treatment is coming along nicely thank you.
The American College of Physicians
The College, as the staff and volunteers call the medical education and training association, is home to 155,000 internists, subspecialists, and a variety of health care professionals and entrepreneurs. When speaking with senior physician members of the College about the work of the association and the role of the physician in today’s proactive of medicine the talk can sometimes turn to a wistful memory. We interviewed almost 100 physicians one on one. Among them were many who had been practicing for more than 25 years. Let’s call the amalgam of these experienced physician conversations one Dr. Clark. “There was a time when I was the smartest guy in the room,” Dr. Clark said, “if there was knowledge to be had about a certain symptom or treatment I would be counted on to be the one who had it, and knew how to use it.” In the world of internists, the role of “master diagnostician” or “master clinician” was the reason many became doctors, and the reason many remained in the profession, because this is the role that gave the profession meaning, and made it a vocation for them. “Now there is too much information to master,” says Dr. Clark. “Technology has made the collection and interpretation of volumes of data a job that only machines can master, and the physician is now charged with mastering those machines and the tools they create.”
That could be the end of the story, but it is only the beginning.
The College has convened an aggressive initiative to address this dynamic in a proactive, thoughtful and inclusive way. The College recognizes that efficient and appropriate patient care is a byproduct of a medical partnership. The primary care physician, the nurse practitioner, the sub specialists and the healthcare systems are working to master and apply new technologies for the best results. These partnerships are not always easy, and the administrative aspects and new tools can be daunting. This is why the College has created a “Future Center” served by a diverse body of experts to help articulate new roles in the partnerships for patient care and to drive the adoption of new technologies with efficient patient care with a human connection as the top priority.
“We can’t go backwards to the good old days of doctoring,” says Dr. Clark. “Instead we are compelled to take a role on a bigger team, and we can still be the quarterback as long as we contribute to the rules, standards and practives for the new good old days.”
As part of the new Center, the College will work to enhance the professional and personal lives of early career physicians financially and emotionally, as the demands and stress of the profession can be devastating.
The College honors the past, and uses its lessons to look over the horizon and to build a pathway for members to help shape that future for the benefit of all of us.
Christopher Cullen is the CEO and Founder of The Zodiac Group, helping associations and non-profits tell their most powerful stories.