Thursday, July 21, 2011

Are doctors just specialised knowledge workers ?

Lots of people believe that healthcare today is "mismanaged" - and that better management would allow more efficient and effective medical care to be provided ! After all, how can any argue against the statement that management is better than mismanagement - isn't this a no-brainer ?

If you want to manage medical care, you need to manage doctors - and if doctors can be treated as "knowledge workers", then it's possible to use what we have learnt from the experience of managing engineers and computer programmers and then apply it to medicine. After all, aren't doctors just experts who deal with patients, just like computer programmers are experts who handle computers ? This seems to be entirely reasonable and logical - but it's precisely the seductiveness of the this argument which causes major mischief.

Doctors are much more than knowledge experts ! While an updated medical knowledgebase is a key ingredient of a good doctor's armamentarium, a good doctor has to have excellent interpersonal skills, so be able to deal with the anxieties and worries of the ill human in front of him. While it may be possible to provide the doctor with automated assistance to help him with making the right diagnosis or which medicine to use, it's not possible to replace the doctor-patient relationship which is at the heart of good medical care. Unfortunately, doctors seem to have forgotten that this is what differentiates them from a computerised medical database - and until we re-learn this, doctors will continue to be disrespected.
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