Technology Can Augment, but Not Replace, Critical Human Skills Needed for Patient Care

James Alrassi, Peter J. Katsufrakis, Latha Chandran

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

The practice of medicine is changing rapidly as a consequence of electronic health record adoption, new technologies for patient care, disruptive innovations that breakdown professional hierarchies, and evolving societal norms. Collectively, these have resulted in the modification of the physician's role as the gatekeeper for health care, increased shift-based care, and amplified interprofessional team-based care. Technological innovations present opportunities as well as challenges. Artificial intelligence, which has great potential, has already transformed some tasks, particularly those involving image interpretation. Ubiquitous access to information via the Internet by physicians and patients alike presents benefits as well as drawbacks: patients and providers have ready access to virtually all of human knowledge, but some websites are contaminated with misinformation and many people have difficulty differentiating between solid, evidence-based data and untruths. The role of the future physician will shift as complexity in health care increases and as artificial intelligence and other technologies advance. These technological advances demand new skills of physicians; memory and knowledge accumulation will diminish in importance while information management skills will become more important. In parallel, medical educators must enhance their teaching and assessment of critical human skills (e.g., clear communication, empathy) in the delivery of patient care. The authors emphasize the enduring role of critical human skills in safe and effective patient care even as medical practice is increasingly guided by artificial intelligence and related technology, and they suggest new and longitudinal ways of assessing essential noncognitive skills to meet the demands of the future. The authors envision practical and achievable benefits accruing to patients and providers if practitioners leverage technological advancements to facilitate the development of their critical human skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-43
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Medicine
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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