A crash course in ethics: Tech and the Evolving Healthcare Moral Imperative

What is a hospital?

It seems like a simple question until you start to unpack all the cultural and moral baggage inside it.

Physically, it’s a building or collection of buildings that hold equipment, resources and people.

Culturally, hospitals are representative of health, healing, and community.

But morally? Morally, hospitals are ethical quagmires; fraught with difficult life-or-death decisions, matters of extreme significance, history-making and faith-altering moments, births, deaths, diagnoses, misdiagnoses. Morally, they are representative of ‘doing what is best’ and ‘consulting the greatest minds available to solve the greatest challenges of our time’. There’s a reason some of the best (and arguably worst) television dramas of the last twenty years have been set in hospitals.

On all plains of definition, however, hospitals evolve to adapt to and adopt the best practices of the day.

Right now, digital technology holds the potential to improve patient outcomes without setting foot in — or ever near — a hospital. Let’s just stop and consider that incredible fact for a moment. Technology means we can solve problems from almost anywhere, anytime.

As such, is there not a cultural and moral imperative to harness the full potential of digital technology when it comes to defining hospitals and healthcare?

In 1960, as a physician, you learned everything you could in medical school and, when presented with a particularly challenging patient case, you’d consult with your colleague physicians in your hospital system. You extended your network as far as was humanly possible to benefit the care of your patients. You may have made a phone call; perhaps written a letter.

In 2015, there have been some significant shifts in our understanding of health and hospitals.

If you’re a doctor presented with a particularly challenging patient case, you can harness the power of the modern-day ‘hospital’ and seek out colleagues from around the country anytime it’s required. You don’t have to wait for Grand Rounds to happen; you can help your patients when they need help and when you need the information.

How do we know this?

Because it’s happening right now on The Rounds.

In many ways, the availability of the technology behind The Rounds means that ‘hospitals’, by definition, now extend beyond the building and into the digital sphere.

There is a challenge, however, of digital technology affording physicians access to too much information; some of it credible, some of it unsolicited, most of it hard to verify. Nevertheless, the sum of the parts is (almost) always more powerful than the whole — meaning the challenge of digesting and curating medical information online should not supercede the desire nor the requirement to access and use it.

This is precisely the challenge solved by The Rounds. The Rounds acts as a secure hub for physicians to connect to both their peers and to verified, curated content. It’s an environment consisting of only licensed physicians, so it’s always clear who’s doing the talking. It’s the digital space into which the modern day definition of ‘hospital’ flows naturally.

The point is that health, healthcare and hospitals have never been able to exist in a vacuum. Technology, in essence, has made it incumbent upon modern health care professionals and physicians to seek out better information, faster. Now that physicians can easily look beyond their immediate colleagues and contemporaries for opinions and collaboration, not only should they be doing it; but there’s a moral imperative to do so.

For more on The Rounds and what we stand for, check out our latest blog post that explains how and why The Rounds is a groundbreaking and successful Canadian start-up.

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