What kind of doctor are we breeding in medicine now?

Disruptive innovation is competitive strategy for an age seized by terror.
– Jill Lepore, author of The Disruption Machine: What the Theory of Innovation Gets Wrong

“What do you want me to do with all the stuff in this box?” my wife asked this weekend.

I looked inside and saw my former self: one of BNC and pin connectors, wires, a notebook with sin, cos, theta, and a host of other equations — a project I worked on but never grew — it came from a time of creativity and endless possibilities for me in medicine.  Engineering and computers were how I entered this field: the hope of solving problems, doing things a little better, safer, and maybe faster.  A chance to innovate and collaborate.  A chance to make a difference.

But the world of medicine has changed from one that promotes discovery and creativity to one that promotes productivity and the lock-step over the past several years.  See more.  Do more.  Don’t sway.  Follow the guidelines.  Stay between the lines.  Want to try something new?  The message to doctors is loud and clear now: Don’t you dare!

Every month another set of guidelines and rubrics, as if the guidelines are how we want doctors to think, or rather, recite.  Medicine is rapidly becoming a staid world of groupthink, as we are forced to use the latest disruptive technology to change our medical world.  Bit by endless meaningless bit.  The value-added ideas never end.  There is little ownership now.  Little personal investment.  Punch the clock.  Get ‘er done.  Do what those grey suits say.

It’s the era of the creative destruction of creativity.

What kind of doctor are we breeding in medicine now?  The American Medical Association (AMA) and Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) want to shorten studies and push medical students through school based on competencies and “not based merely on a traditional time-based system.”  Time with patients can no longer be trusted it seems.  In the place of time: competencies gained from simulators. Plastics superseding flesh. As though doctors should become technocrats that make a cameo appearance at the patient’s bedside with their smart phone in hand.

Is the hurry up push toward technology and big data really needed or what we’re being sold?   Enter your note, doctor, click another box, you’re being scored now.  Do as you’re told.  What’s that? A little software glitch?  Don’t rock the boat.  Just work around it.  The fix will be here in September. We must do more with less.  Oh, and forget the staff, they’re expensive. Hurry up.  Perfect data, remember?  Your pay depends on it.

Oh, and that idea you wanted to work on?  Sorry, no time or money.  Really doctor, we’re on a time line. Could you move it along?  My kids have a play date.

The disruption machine is moving, alright.

But will we be better for it?

Wes Fisher is a cardiologist who blogs at Dr. Wes.

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