Humanity in the Time of Structured Data

pathology synoptic report CommonWealth recently posted "The Unseen Pathologist: Why You Might Want to Meet Yours" written by guest contributor, pathologist Dr. Michael Misialek. It's an excellent read from the unique perspective of a pathologist who is gaining more information due to advancements in technology while presenting that information to the patients on which he's reporting. Changes to equipment, expansion of knowledge, and increasing structured data capture allows for greater understanding of specimens - in addition to recent changes and advances in genetic testing. A brave new world of intelligence about the causes and nature of cancer. However, while these advancements provide greater insight for physicians, the information is nearly indecipherable to laypersons (namely, patients). Luckily, if patients want to know information and want pathologists to explain their findings, all they have to do is ask.

As Dr. Misialek states:

You can request a meeting with me, you can ask — as Mrs. C did — to review your pathology, whatever the diagnosis, benign or malignant. No request is too small. Will the health care system allow for this? Won’t it resist?

My colleagues from other specialties have embraced it. But currently we cannot bill for these patient consults. That’s part of my reason for writing this: We pathologists are advocating to make our consultations with patients billable, like a patient’s consultations with any other specialists. Pathologists are taking on new roles, and the system needs to change to reflect the value of pathology.

There are more ways for pathologists to capture more detailed information, including synoptic reporting using structured data capture, but that additional information means more to explain to a patient. Luckily, pathologists are interested and available to parse these findings for patients, to better help them understand what determined the diagnosis and how that, in turn, will inform the treatment. Unluckily, pathologists can't bill for these consultations with patients - meaning that being able to take time from their busy schedule without being paid for it is a luxury many pathologists can't afford.

The rise of computers and other mechanical solutions for pathology would suggest a dehumanizing effect on the profession, that it would be easier for the physicians to become ensconced in data and figures than dealing with the people from which the specimens were taken. Dr. Misialek proves that is not the case - in fact, Dr. Misialek shows the best of both worlds: an informed pathologist who wants and is able to better elucidate his findings directly to the patients involved.

Again, it's a great read worth checking out and you can find here:

photo credit: via photopin