Sunday, 8 July 2012

Art vs. Science of Medicine

Having started my health-based career at Cambridge studying medicine, I was originally a firm believer in the science of medicine. The argument of science vs. art in medicine is ancient and will continue for as long as humans do I think, but the issues around the debate are very topical when considering the redesign of NHS services.
For me the science of medicine is the amazing technology, scanners, drugs, and devices that have revolutionised patient experience. The 'art' is the softer stuff - the empathy, the consultation techniques, the well-being and consideration of emotions, provision of information and the facilitation of shared decision making between patient and healthcare professional.
I really feel that this debate has been shifted from the pure hypothetical and philosophical to completely practical and relevant. The very nature of the NHS in the coming years has to be very different to how it has been so far. The technology is amazing, and will make an enormous difference in saving lives that would have been impossible to save only a number of years ago. But the real challenge the NHS is facing is not the acute life-threatening conditions, but the long-term conditions that are not dramatic, but represent a significant loss of quality of life. The numbers affected by these LTCs are gigantic, and will continue to rise. New MRI scanners, new devices and drugs will only go so far  in managing these new demographic of patients. It is the process of empowering these LTC patients and getting them in the right emotional and mental state to take responsibility to self-manage their conditions which is going to be the saving grace of the NHS. There are no diagnostic devices, drugs or data that can inspire that emotional mind-set - the art of medicine, supported by science, needs to become prominent, to give the NHS the sustainability it so desperately needs.

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