Letters

New connections between medical knowledge and patient care

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7118.1309b (Published 15 November 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1309

Human condition is full of decisions that aren't simple yes/no decisions

  1. Austin T Carty, Consultant radiologista
  1. a Royal Liverpool University Hospitals, Liverpool L7 8XP
  2. b St Thomas Health Centre, Exeter EX4 1HJ
  3. c Hillview Surgery, Greenford, Middlesex UB6 7HQ
  4. d Darlington Memorial Hospital, Darlington, County Durham DL3 6HX

    Editor—Weed's arguments in favour of introducing information tools into medical practice are fundamentally flawed.1 He has failed to give any example of how knowledge coupling software works in facilitating medical decision making, let alone in supplanting the unaided medical mind, as he advocates.

    The problem is that computer software is essentially binary. Its natural default is to a yes/no decision. The human condition is full of indecisiveness, and, whatever the character of the doctor, the patient remains human. There can be no contest against the craftsmanship of history taking by an experienced doctor. Heaven forbid that this should be replaced by a questionnaire and a computerised home doctor.

    The profession is less in the backwoods than Weed allows. The success of tools for updating one's knowledge, such as the Oxford Textbook of Medicine, is an example of our openness to the support of information technology. The shift to problem based learning in the curriculums of many medical schools is an acknowledgement of the futility of overloading minds with facts, which do not endure.

    By all means let us harness good software to aid our decision making when we are convinced that it is good. But we must remember that the supreme human qualities of happiness, love, and beauty are impervious to the discipline of digitisation.

    References

    1. 1.

    Intervention of health professionals acts as an inductance, not as a resistor

    1. D P Kernick, General practitionerb
    1. a Royal Liverpool University Hospitals, Liverpool L7 8XP
    2. b St Thomas Health Centre, Exeter EX4 1HJ
    3. c Hillview Surgery, Greenford, Middlesex UB6 7HQ
    4. d Darlington Memorial Hospital, Darlington, County Durham DL3 6HX

      Editor—Weed states that voltage drops occur along the pathway from the …

      View Full Text

      Sign in

      Log in through your institution

      Free trial

      Register for a free trial to thebmj.com to receive unlimited access to all content on thebmj.com for 14 days.
      Sign up for a free trial

      Subscribe