If you have a conversation with a Family Physician long enough, Marcus Welby M.D. will be mentioned. Often placed on a pedestal, he was the quintessential, but fictional, family doctor. He was the best of what we wanted in medicine. Kind and brilliant with an amazing bedside manner and an unceasing ability to diagnose and treat. But like betamax and cassette tapes, Marcus Welby is gone.
He is a memory now of a time when the roles in medicine were much more straightfoward. The patient told Dr. Welby his or her symptoms, an exam was performed, diagnoses pondered and then declared. Treatment was initiated and the patient followed instructions unquestioningly. The process was repeated in its entirety for every contact with the health care system.
We can imagine that he was replaced by Dr. Welby 2.0, who has a smart phone with digital pharmacopeia and computer in the office. Dr. Welby 2.0 might use an electronic health record or at least knows that it will be required soon. Dr. Welby 2.0 sees more patients than the previous version, but his bed side manner has waned. Dr. Welby 2.0’s patients often complain about him or her spending too much time looking at a computer screen and less time looking at the patient. Dr. Welby 2.0 realizes that, but notes have to be completed and boxes checked or no one gets paid.
Dr. Welby 2.0 is also treating Patient 2.0. No longer just a cog in the machine of modern American medicine, Patient 2.0 has a computer of his or her own. Patient 2.0 has access to much of the same information that Dr. Welby 2.0 has. Patient 2.0 no longer requires a physician in order to have to access to the information about his or her own body and condition. The trickle of relayed information from the medical field has turned into a powerful river. Often, though, the river of information may take Patient 2.0 far from where the physician might want, leaving Dr Welby 2.0 and Patient 2.0 miles apart.
Right now, I believe we are still in version 2.0 of healthcare. Physicians like me are cranking out the notes and superbills required to keep the lights on while trying desperately not to lose the humanity that led us to medicine in the first place. I worry that my typing skills will some day be better than my auscultation of a heart. My job now is to know as much about the cost and tier level of a medication as its pharmacology.
Dr. Welby 3.0 and Patient 3.0 will evolve together. As a team, they will use technology not only to solve healthcare problems but also as a powerful tool to maintain health, diagnose disease and personalize treatment. Doctor 3.0 and Patient 3.0 will communicate regularly through connected devices, both actively and passively. Actively, they can use email, text or video to check in on chronic disease or new symptoms. Doctors can assess the data collected from a patient’s activity or sleep tracker, vitals from connected devices and lab results obtained from home machines. Patients will be empowered to take the lead role in their own health, and physicians will be free from the binds of regulations and focus on patients in most need of care.
Dr. Welby 3.0 is not too far away, and that is why I am starting this website. For anyone to be at their peak of health, having a relationship with an excellent physician will always be important. Moving forward, the way we access physicians and the information patients provide is going to change. I plan to provide both patients and physicians with best tools available to move into the 3.0 future.