The advances of medical science are far too expansive for any professional to master through rote learning alone, and this information is only increasing. Dr. Karl Koenig, director of the Integrated Practice Unit for Musculoskeletal Care at Dell Medical School in Austin, said that, at one point, everything that was known about orthopedic medicine was contained in a single textbook. Now, just a few generations later, the knowledge has expanded exponentially, and as such, the traditional idea that “the buck stops with the doctor” is simply untenable. Dr. Koenig instead considers himself to be the leader of a team, with many professionals each working to play the role that they know best. The ability to coordinate with other professionals, as a means of delivering care that is more comprehensive than one provider can manage alone, is an increasingly important capability for medical professionals.
Several different experts with whom we spoke similarly emphasized that no professional can keep up with the pace of new information. Virtually all of them, however, also emphasized that, thanks to technology, it has never been so easy to access such vast resources of medical knowledge in so little time. Because we have so many tools to help us “outsource” medical information, medical professionals’ expertise is best used not for memorization-based learning, but rather for the things that technology cannot do – critical thinking, careful decision-making, and effective communication with patients and collaborators throughout the care process.