I've been following the Twitter stream regarding TEDMED 2013 with interest this year, mainly because I recognized and "know" (virtually, mind you) one of the participants this year, @Zdoggmd. Seems he knocked his talk on empathy out of the park and received a large, booming standing ovation after his talk. Too bad I wasn't there to witness it. I could only see a snippet so far and it looked great, but ...
... I had to work.
I love innovation in medicine. I'm a technology junkie, I like to think of myself as an early adopter, and even though I am a "seasoned veteran" in medicine, I still think I keep reasonably up to date. So it comes as no surprise that I find myself, admittedly, jeolous that I can't be there to hear the inspirational talks and leave feeling better about myself and the state of medicine. After all, there is still so much to like about our profession, despite what we hear and what I sometimes write on this blog.
But I also love and respect the science of medicine, and this is the part that bothers me about TEDMED.
TEDMED isn't science. TEDMED is show: really, really beautiful, articulate, polished, high-definition-brought-from-a thousand-angles-of-view, show. We are wowed. We wish we could speak like that. We cherish the graphics that are shown. We are taken places where we haven't gone before. We see the 62,253,416 impressions, 21,023 tweets via 4,420 tweeps and weep. We see cool things and hear cool stories while doing other things on our computer. "God, it's beautiful man!"
And we are shown, convincingly, "The Way," through marketing.
Do not ask. Do not dare question. Listen. Accept.
Then, while you're there, hob nob with the intellectual hoi polloi. They are the "influencers." You are, for that moment and for many thousands of dollars, in the inner circle: an intellectual elite.
It's addicting. It's so easy: an aphrodisiac for the tired medical soul. Seriously, what's not to like?
But real scientific inquiry and discovery takes cynics, doubting Thomases, and critics, not just ideas and stage shows. Medicine isn't practiced in corporate suites or in front of a computer (despite what others think), it's practiced at the bedside. It is practiced face-to-face. So while bringing great ideas together to brainstorm for "breakthroughs" is fine and dandy (even, as they say, "magical"), it is a very corporate way to think.
But real, lasting ideas that work in medicine require more than just show and entry fees; they require inquiry, critique, testing, critical appraisal, buy-in, and most of all, action.
Buy-in is tough if ideas are top down. Buy-in is tough if only certain ideas are amplified by unknown "idea curators" while others are tossed aside too quickly. Buy-in is impossible if ideas aren't responsibly vetted for they might be incorrect or dangerous. Buy-in won't happen if leaders don't lead and are different from their followers. And followers won't implement ideas if they think they are contrived.
So we should watch TEDMED for what it is - entertainment - and for what it's not. THEN we can keep an appropriate perspective to what we need as we get back to the real work at medicine.
After all, our patients in this troubled medical system still need us firmly based in science and reality.