How digital technology could humanize healthcare

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Mobile apps offer an outlet to automate certain tasks that could otherwise consume doctors' precious time.

Technology in medicine can be seen as an unwelcome shift away from human interaction, but digital medicine may actually play a key role in humanizing the healthcare system.

After experiencing a bout of cardiac arrhythmia, Robert Graboyes, a healthcare researcher at the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, installed an app that now allows him to perform an EKG in 30 seconds and get an immediate analysis. These types of developments enable primary care providers to skip time-consuming, unnecessary tasks, Graboyes argues in a recent article published at

“Sheer mathematics frustrates our desire to reconstruct the nostalgic patient-provider relationship,” he writes. With 200,000 primary care physicians tasked with treating 320 million individuals, this translates to about 1,600 patients per PCP, Graboyes notes. Assuming 1,600 hours per year are devoted strictly to seeing patients, or approximately 30 hours per week, it would leave just one hour per year for a doctor to focus on an individual patient.

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Further, implementing standardized electronic health records also shows promise for reducing physicians’ administrative burden, thus freeing up time to spend with patients, the article notes.

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When their potential is maximized, digital technologies can work harmoniously with PCPs instead of against them, the article adds. “In a mobile, socially disconnected world of 200,000 doctors and 320 million patients, time is likely to be technology’s greatest gift.”

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