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Information overload harming patients?

Champion of bed-side medicine, Abraham Verghese, MD, advises his medical students at Stanford to meet their patients first then scour the overwhelming amounts of medical records available before making a diagnosis.

Paraphrasing his June 6 blog entry on The Atlantic's Web site, he writes:

...meet the patient in the flesh first before shaking hands with the patient's data; work on getting as much as you can from listening to the patient, from sounding the body and only then turn to the computer.

Ironically, the doctor, professor and best-selling author, writes about his concerns of information overload and its adverse affects on health care in a new health blog he's writing for the Atlantic:

The issue I've been wrestling with this week: is the information extant per patient, the sheer mass of it (measured not in stacks of papers, but in searchable gigabytes) at times detrimental to patient care?

A scholar who believes in the power of the written word, (his most recent book "Cutting for Stone" is a nearly 600-page novel) Verghese explores the possibilities of combining the two worlds of virtual information and old fashioned human contact together into the best of both possible worlds.

For example, he himself combines the old world and the new simply by paraphrasing the poet T.S. Eliot in a blog about health care: "Knowledge can get lost in information, just as wisdom can get lost in knowledge."

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