When I was a child, my visits to the family general physician were way different from what I experience today. The first stark difference from my present experience is that my doctor was not someone valued solely for the degrees on his wall; rather he was considered an extension of the family. Everyone from my immediate to my extended family considered his word the gospel truth. In a sense, this was not ideal since we never really got ‘second opinions’ due to an almost irrevocable faith in the doctor. However, it wasn’t merely borne out of geographical convenience. Over time, an unspoken bond had developed between our family and the doctor. This was a relationship of mutual trust, admiration, and extended beyond the confines of the clinic. Anecdotal as this evidence for personalised healthcare may be, it was hardly exclusive to my family and was, in fact, quite commonplace.
Today, ground realities are quite different. In the West, there has been a steady shift towards technologies and innovations that value speed, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. Developing countries like India are, understandably, hoping to follow and adopt this trend. Timothy Hoff, a Sociologist at Northeastern University, said, “We’re creating a healthcare system that is much more transactional and impersonal, rather than one focused on maximising relationship quality and values such as trust.” This is odd, especially considering the policies enacted by most regimes are aimed at creating a medical system that is patient-oriented.
At this point, the trade-off boils down to having a supposedly efficient system versus one that is personalised and maximises patient comfort. To achieve the latter, one need not shift focus to technology in a manner that excludes personalised interactions. In this regard, standards for existing medical professionals must be improved rather than endeavouring to replace them with emotionless machines and AI technology. In a space like health, where patients are extremely likely to be in a vulnerable situation, the comfort of the individual must supersede a supposed utilitarian benefit in terms of time saved and efficiency achieved. Therefore, it can be concluded by saying that a shift away from the personal and the creation of a mechanical system is something that will be antithetical to the patient’s comfort and experience.