Technology has always blown my mind. Every six months, some tech genius comes up with a new way to interact with life. Whether it’s Twitter, Google Glass, or the newest iPhone, there always seems to be something on the horizon that threatens to bring extinction to the way we know how to live.
With all of this change going on around us, healthcare has definitely not been left behind. In fact, some of the most amazing technological advancements are in healthcare. For example, I try to explain to my family and friends the mechanics behind robotic assisted surgery, and they are completely shocked to know that surgeons are putting so much trust in machines to cut into someone’s body!
Or take the amazing advancements described in Popular Mechanics, ranging from a diagnostic oral cancer spit test, to a painless liver scan that would detect liver damage in just over five minutes. These kinds of advancements are both exciting and unnerving for me because it seems that with a greater reliance on technology comes a greater deterioration in the art of human interaction.
Recently, our hospital adopted Computer Physician Order Management, or CPOM, which is a system that allows physicians to enter their orders in the computer rather than on paper. As I understand, this is all part of the nationwide overhaul of the healthcare system under the Affordable Healthcare Act. Now, if there is one thing I've noticed that people do not like in the hospital more than anything -- it's change.
When our unit was re-organized to include more chairs at the nursing station, everyone had something to say about it. When our hospital changed its attendance and tardiness policy, conversations about it continued for the next three months. So when CPOM was implemented, it was no different.
Doctors grumbled, nurses cursed, and patients wondered why everyone was so on edge all the time. As things have become more ingrained, however, people have relaxed, and even the most resistant of physicians have settled into a silent stew instead of being irate all the time.
While observing all of this, I began to wonder, “How do technological changes in the healthcare system change the way oncology care is provided?” Although the technical side of oncology care such as biopsies, imaging, radiation, and even chemotherapy administration does, without a doubt, gain from these tremendous changes, one question probes my mind: What happens to bedside manner?
While some might argue that the most important part of oncology care is the technical side, I would have to say that knowing how to interact with a patient suffering with cancer is equally important.
As I mentioned earlier, it has been my observation that with the advancements in technology, there seems to be less of an emphasis on proper human interaction. Being able to communicate empathy and consolation to a grieving patient or family member is not something that you can advance through science... yet.
I believe communication with oncology patients is an art form that takes experience and an understanding of the human condition, which is mortal and delicate. I am not opposed to technology; on the contrary, I am very excited about what it can do to enhance healthcare. However, I know that what makes oncology nursing so gratifying for me is being able talk with a patient about what they are going through, or laugh with them if they need to hear laughter.
Have you noticed a decline in communication with your oncology patients as we continue to advance in medical technology?