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September 11th, 2014

A Back-to-Basics Thought from the Transform Symposium

By In the Loop

The auditorium lights up at Mayo Clinic's Transform symposium. If you've been to Transform, you might associate it with inspiring speakers, impressive design, the latest technology, and transformative thinking. It's pretty cool, as far as symposia go, and has seemingly all of the bells and whistles. But one participant has a message of caution for the folks at Transform and, really, health care in general: Let's not transform ourselves so much that we lose the personal touch. (Hey, that rhymes.)

In a guest post on the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation blog, Lynn Kosegi of Pittsburgh writes that this year, "I find myself feeling uncomfortable." And not just in that energizing way the conference planners aim for. Kosegi notes that this was her third Transform conference, which she says was "as always, a wonderful opportunity to engage with others who are passionate about health care." And like other years, she says she left "re-energized, with a renewed motivation to contribute to the field." But then there's that but

Kosegi notes that the "presentations and poster demonstrations portray the same dedication to improving care and the patient experience" and "unwavering dedication to health and wellness." But what made her uncomfortable was that for the first time, in her view, "the emphasis on technology seems to be overtaking discussions about the human touch that is so vital to health care." She says explicitly that her post is "not an anti-technology rant." And to back that up, she notes that she came to the conference equipped with "iPad, smart phone, laptop, and Kindle." (What, no Apple Watch?) And she came armed with a belief "in the power of technology to improve health."

The tipping of that emphasis mirrors what Kosegi says is the decreased ability to "build and nurture the patient relationship" and a (perhaps corresponding) decrease in satisfaction among folks working in the medical field. It does not, however, mirror what she says she's seen in her visits to Rochester over the years. That includes, she writes, a server in a local restaurant who asked (unprompted) if she had any special dietary needs and the hotel security guard who knocked on her door saying the staff was worried when she didn't answer her wake-up call. And it includes patients talking of volunteers who walked them to appointments when they looked lost, or librarians who offered to package and mail information so they didn't have to carry it. "But my favorite stories," she writes, "have been about patients who talk about the time they've spent with the doctors they see here at Mayo ... and how amazed they are that a Mayo Clinic physician … spent an hour just talking with them."

Kosegi concludes with this thought: "The more exposed I am to the use of technology in health care, the more appreciative I am of the uniqueness of the Center for Innovation's focus on the interaction between the physician and patient as a central point in their designs … Let's not forget -- let's please not forget -- that the reason we are all here, the heart and soul of health care itself, is a physician's very human relationship with a patient."

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Tags: Center for Innovation, Innovation, Patient Stories, Patient-Centered Care, Transform

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