A recent article in the Wall Street Journal laments the fact that big data has pretty much destroyed the entertaining aspects of the national pastime. In the push to use digital data to win games, baseball has become less entertaining to spectators. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see my kid with a computer science degree working in the front office of the Phillies– being instrumental in pulling them out of the perpetual pit! But winning at the expense of keeping spectators entertained isn’t sustainable in the long run. Keeping spectators entertained is the primary job of professional baseball.
This brings me to what we’ve been discussing in medicine for nearly 5 years – the negative impact of big data and the electronic medical record on our practice of medicine and the patient-physician relationship. In medicine, the blind push towards winning the “metrics championship”, has pulled us away from meaningful conversations with our patients. We are now paid more for our documentation than our care. Nurses deal with the same pressures – they face more screen time than bedside time. Call bells are answered slower and patients suffer. Digitization was supposed to usher in a revolution that would make our lives more efficient, allow more time for patient care. Lost in all of this is the real job of medicine, to heal and maintain health.
How can we learn from these two parallel experiences? I suggest getting back to basics, and asking the question, “Why are we in these two professions anyway?” While baseball exists to provide entertainment to its patrons, medicine exists to heal the illness and suffering of its patients. Let’s use data intelligently and specifically to enhance what the professionals do, in order to achieve the stated goals – entertainment and healing.
End the money supply going towards rapid, nonspecific digitization of sport as well as medicine. Let professionals decide and allow them to innovate and adapt, but remove the urge to pay for data rather than professionalism. Finally, in both these instances, it will ultimately come down to the customers putting their collective feet down and demanding a system that places them in the center of things–whether they wish to be entertained or healed. Keep it simple, stupid!
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