The Double-Edged Sword: Technology’s Impact on Medical Practice

Charbhi Gupta, Intern, GMC Patiala

Mahima Kumari, Final year MBBS, PJMCH, Dumka

There was a time when medical students faced the herculean task of going through huge textbooks, with the important points highlighted and underlined for good measure. To solve a doubt, they would have to wade through an ocean of knowledge without any support.

Now all the knowledge of medicine can be condensed into a singular device, the tablet. This tablet can be our library, our lecture hall, and even our clinical postings!

Online databases, e-books, and virtual libraries provide instant access to a wealth of information, enabling students to supplement their learning. Books can be easily downloaded and stored on our tablets as pdfs, to be opened in seconds. Apps like GoodNotes, are used to mark and annotate the important points right on our tablet. Now there is no more hassle of taking many books to class to study.

Moving beyond books, it can also help us have a better understanding of difficult topics. For example, anatomy relies heavily on visualization. Usually, we study it through 2D images in textbooks or hands-on dissection, but they have limitations. By utilizing anatomy apps, students can conveniently view specific structures from multiple angles, facilitating better retention of information.

Online coaching apps, and teleconferencing platforms further enable remote learning.

It has also made networking with our peers easier. For the preparation of exams like NEET PG, USMLE, and PLAB, students can easily interact with each other on online forums and social media platforms, spring their resources and experiences with each other.

There are new advancements in technology, one of which is Chat GPT, a free-to-use AI system. As medical students, we have to be mindful of our time. Chat GPT can help us out by helping us make a schedule based on our specific needs, as well as reducing our time spent finding information and explanations on a topic. It can also help provide case-based discussions and differential diagnoses, thus helping refine a student’s clinical reasoning skills.

Students now have opportunities to gain hands-on experience, develop critical thinking abilities, and improve teamwork and communication skills without putting real patients at risk through healthcare simulations. While ‘virtual patients’ are not a replacement for real-life, they can act as a good substitute in scenarios where interaction with patients can be limited, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, in which physical contact was heavily discouraged to prevent the spread of the disease.

Technology has, therefore, transformed medical education, offering us unparalleled opportunities for learning, collaboration and skill development considered unachievable  of just 10 years ago. Now it is up to us to use the technology responsibly, to prepare to meet the demands of a rapidly changing healthcare.

Now, while technology offers convenience and accessibility in healthcare, it also presents challenges in several areas:

Information Overload and Misinformation:

• Google and ChatGPT, while valuable tools, are flooded with both accurate and inaccurate information. Patients coming armed with “half-baked knowledge” can lead to confusion, unnecessary anxieties, and misdiagnosis. Time is spent debunking myths and clarifying misconceptions.

Erosion of Trust and the Doctor-Patient Relationship:

• Patients relying solely on technology for diagnosis and treatment can undermine the importance of a thorough professional assessment and personalized care. This can create a transactional approach, diminishing the trust and open communication crucial for good healthcare.

Increased Note-Taking Burden:

• Electronic Health Records (EHRs) can be cumbersome, requiring extensive documentation that takes time away from patient interaction. The focus can shift from patient care to data entry, leading to burnout and dissatisfaction.

Time Management:

• Appointment booking through QR codes might seem efficient, but it can create logistical challenges. Overbooking or last-minute cancellations can disrupt schedules and impact the quality of care provided.

Learning Curve and Technical Issues:

• Keeping up with the ever-evolving technology demands constant learning and adaptation. Glitches, system downtime, and lack of tech support can be frustrating and time-consuming.

Data Fatigue and Irrelevant Information:

• The sheer volume of medical data can be overwhelming. Filtering relevant information from irrelevant noise can be difficult, leading to information overload and wasted time.

Potential for Bias and Inequality:

• Algorithms used in AI might perpetuate existing biases in healthcare access and diagnosis, further disadvantaging vulnerable populations.

Privacy Concerns:

• Sharing patient data electronically exposes it to potential breaches and misuse, raising concerns about privacy and confidentiality.

Depersonalization of Care:

• Overreliance on technology can create a barrier between doctor and patient, hindering the development of rapport and empathy, which are crucial for holistic care.

Emotional Intelligence Gap:

• While AI excels in data analysis, it lacks the human ability to understand subtle emotions and nuances that are crucial for accurate diagnosis and emotional support.

In conclusion, technology is a powerful tool in healthcare, but it’s essential to acknowledge its limitations and potential downsides. Striking a balance between embracing innovation and prioritizing human connection is key to ensure the ethical, effective, and patient-centred use of technology in medical practice.


Images – google images

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