Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Why Physicians Need to Be More Than Automated Medical Kiosks

Bynum, William MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000092

The last 20 years have seen an unprecedented technological revolution, including the development of the personal computer. The new technologies that have emerged during this age of innovation have allowed human beings to connect widely with one another through electronic media and have made life more efficient and streamlined. Likewise, this technological renaissance has helped to define medicine as one of the most innovative professions by providing physicians with diagnostics and interventions that are more accurate, efficacious, and safe, to the benefit of physicians and the public. However, in both life and the practice of medicine, these new technologies have had the unintended consequence of reducing the value of direct human connection and threaten to isolate individuals in spite of advancing society.

In this commentary, the author argues that human beings need to make a more concerted effort to connect with each other through both enhanced communication technologies and direct human contact. Likewise, leaders in medicine need to embrace and promote technological advancement while at the same time working to maintain the human connection that physicians have with their patients and teaching learners to do the same. Doing so will prevent physicians from becoming automated medical kiosks that offer sound, innovative medical advice but that lack the personality, compassion, and emotion that will lead to better health.

Dr. Bynum is attending faculty, National Capital Consortium Family Medicine Residency, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, Fort Belvoir, Virginia. At the time this commentary was written, he was a third-year resident.

Funding/Support: None reported.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable. The patient in the opening vignette is not identifiable based on the information presented.

Disclaimers: The opinions and statements in this commentary are the responsibility of the author, and such opinions and statements do not necessarily represent the policies of the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, or the United States and its agencies.

Previous presentations: This commentary is a written adaptation of a short speech given by the author at the 2012 Association of American Medical Colleges’ Annual Meeting as part of the Organization of Resident Representatives/Organization of Student Representatives/Group on Regional Medical Campuses plenary session “The Sky’s the Limit for the Future of Medical Education: Mentoring, Leadership, and Innovation,” on November 2, 2012, in San Francisco, California.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Bynum, 9300 DeWitt Loop, Fort Belvoir, VA 22060; telephone: (571) 231-1803; e-mail:

© 2014 by the Association of American Medical Colleges