"No one of us is as smart as all of us" ...Albert Einstein
The "all of us" has been taken to a new level.
- Is it computing power?
- Is it intuition?
Recently, non-scientist gamers took only three weeks to solve a problem over which scientists had struggled for more than a decade. Citizen-scientists produced an accurate model of a protease molecule, a protein key to the way retroviruses like the AIDS virus multiply. Considering that this group effort between non-physicians paved the way for substantial advancements in the treatment of AIDS – imagine the power of a medical collaboration between highly trained professionals- nurses, doctors, and administrators in the diagnosis and treatment of patients outside of an institutional setting.
A patient’s condition can change rapidly, sometimes not waiting for a scheduled office visit. Prompt patient care may rely on instant communication. Secure technology is needed which provides a platform for medical collaboration between medical professionals, allowing them to share pictures snapped from a cell phone to interact with thoughtful words. Combine pertinent and focused discussion and also take advantage of intuition, interchange and data as well. Doctors, nurses, lab technicians, therapists, and other team members should be able to view cases on their laptops, iPhones, or desktop computers. That is a use of technology, but there is much more. Contrast true collaborative medicine with an announcement made the same week. Wellpoint announced that they will use IBM's Watson to crunch data to help doctors come to a diagnosis. It is a start, but not enough. It leans more toward cost control than care.
At least for now, the skills of Jeopardy and total recall, cannot pretend to replace holistic medicine. There is more to diagnosis than decision trees. Data is important, but must be obtained sometimes by just asking a simple question. More often it is finding the answer behind the answer. Interpretation of an answer is enriched by body language, eye contact, and use of language. Sometimes what is not relayed as data is more important than what is. The problem, though, is that with the explosion of knowledge, we need others to help. We need help knowing the right question. We need help interpreting the data. We need help fitting the diagnosis and treatment to the person receiving it. That is the purpose of collaboration.
In the same way that a large group of gamers solved a complex scientific problem, medical collaboration allows highly trained professionals to resolve complicated, evolving problems, quickly and efficiently. Diagnosing illnesses and developing treatment plans within a secure, virtual platform is much more cost-effective than assembling all the care givers in one location along with the patient, or worse, shipping the patient from place to place. Healthcare administrators and patient care providers alike need to quickly embrace the collaborative powers made available as a way to give optimal patient care in the most cost- and time-effective manner. What we learned from gamers, can make our work more fun.