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

F. Hampton Roy, MD


December 08, 2006

This feature requires the newest version of Flash. You can download it here.

"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.

Sign Up now for a free monthly email that brings you the top features from MedGenMed.

Readers are encouraged to respond to George Lundberg, MD, Editor of MedGenMed, for the editor's eyes only or for possible publication via email:


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.