COMMENTARY

The Functioning Brains of Us Physicians Should Be "Guidance Systems," Not "Books of Knowledge"

F. Hampton Roy, MD

Disclosures

December 08, 2006

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"We are a guidance system, not a book of knowledge," Dr. Lawrence Weed wrote in 1968.[1,2] Then, as now, medical information was expanding exponentially. Each of us physicians needs information sources for an accurate, complete differential diagnosis and for specific diseases.

As physicians, we do not need to carry information about lab tests, medications, or dosages in our heads. We need a reliable ready source of information to consult, and we need to be in charge of providing the patient with excellent quality of care by being a guidance system.

For continuing education and recertification, specific information is usually requested. I classify that as "book of knowledge" information, but a more relevant avenue would be to test the thought-planning process, which is the "guidance system.[3]"

In today's world of readily available information, we are at times assisted by the patient.[4,5] It is not uncommon, once a diagnosis has been made, for the patient to present to us reams of paper that include information about diagnostic tests, disease manifestations, medications, nutritional supplements, and alternative treatments. Since we are now "partners" with the patient in terms of diagnosis and treatment, we need to honor the patient's book of knowledge and provide our best guidance system. This can only increase the quality of care to the patient.[6]

With better sources of information for the patient and the doctor and a better understanding of disease processes, I feel medical care will continue to improve mostly as our guidance systems improve.

That's my opinion. I'm Dr. Hampton Roy, a practicing ophthalmologist in Little Rock, Arkansas, and a member of the eMedicine Editorial Board.


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