The Art of Medicine

In just a couple months, many of my friends will discover that the noble profession of medicine has not given them the proverbial middle finger, and that they will shortly be matched to a teaching hospital in a part of the U.S. where they would dare to step foot. Congrats and props you all of you for making it this far, and bless your heart for the years of education and mountains of student debt you will have ahead of you. I remembered briefly considering medical school during my undergrad years; I think after finding out how badly I got owned on my chemistry final, followed by a seminar on how to not fail at applying for med school later that evening, I decided (at the time) that four years of pain and suffering were enough for me (Don’t worry guys, it’ll be worth it for you in the end).

In a few months, I’ll celebrate ten years in medical technology. That’s ten years interacting with hundreds of health care professionals, patients, and fellow medtech enthusiasts about life-transforming technology. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s this: most doctors are great at the science of medicine, but few are skilled in the art of medicine.

What do I mean by the art of medicine? A modern version of the Hippocratic Oath states:

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

In an interview I did a few years ago with health entrepreneur Ron Gutman, he shared:

The art of medicine is about people, about the human part, and just being concerned for your patient. A physician has a role well beyond simply prescribing a medication or treatment. He has a role of reassurance, of lending a shoulder.

Much of the sympathy and reassurance that a doctor provides simply boils down to proper “education”. During my time working at Apple, I learned that the root of many, if not most, of the reasons for broken relationships with people and Apple and its products is an inadequate understanding of what something can/cannot do and how to do it. This was clearly evident during my first year in the medical device industry, as some patients would call in and literally ask, “What did my doctor put in my body, and what does it do?”

To future doctors, and anyone working in the service industry: it will improve the lives of everyone if we simply take the time and learn how to properly educate someone. It amazes me how much more anger is placated and fewer lawyers get involved when we make sure our customers adequately know the products they pay for, and we apply some of the principles of the art of medicine.

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