This is what medicine has become: a series of computer queries and measures of clicks. It must be measurable, quantifiable, and justifiable or it didn't happen.
Do they ask if I asked them about if they used cocaine? Of course not: too politically incorrect.
Do they ask if I really listened to their heart? Of course not - this activity is not a paid activity.
Do they ask about the myriad of phone calls and e-mails to arrange for a procedure? Nope.
Do they measure my time with the patient when I go back to see them on the same day? Nope- not paid for.
So what's the motivation for doctors to be doctors? Are we retraining our doctors from care-givers to data providers? What are we losing in turn?
Today, an excellent opinion piece by Daniel Henniger appeared in today's Wall Street Journal. In it, he references an important article by Drs. Christine Cassel and Sachin H Jain published in the June 17th issue of JAMA entitled "Assessing Individual Physician Performance: Does Measurement Suppress Motivation." Cassel and Jain are two shapers of the Pay-for-Performance movement but acknowledge the danger this movement has on physician behavior:
Overstating the value of discrete quality measures has the potential to demotivate and demoralize physicians who appropriately view their job as much more than simply meeting a standardized measure set.This point cannot be overemphasized.
Doctors are losing their motivation to diagnose in favor of sitting at a computer. Doctors, I also dare say, are losing their skills in favor of sitting at a computer. Clicking buttons has such importance to health care systems that these performance measures are being linked, in part, to doctors' salaries. As a result, young doctors are losing their complex problem solving skills in favor of making sure they click on every result that comes to their inbox, lest they be seen as nonproductive. This, you see, is what matters to employers.
We are reshaping medicine away from the bedside to the computer.
We'd better understand the damage this shift is causing before our young physicians of tomorrow don't know any better.