Is Healthcare an Art or Science?

Posted on October 27, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

At this morning’s Healthcare IT Transformation Assembly one of the panelists commented that providers need to stop treating healthcare as an art and treat it as a science. I was a little surprised how strong the panelist was in this comment. What do you think? Is healthcare an Art or a Science?

My take is that healthcare is more science than it is art. However, the problem we have right now is that healthcare is being treated as more art than science.

When you look at the history of healthcare, it makes sense why many providers treat the care they provide as art. For a long time the science of healthcare wasn’t there and so doctors had to practice the art of medicine because the science of healthcare wasn’t there yet and the science of healthcare wasn’t being shared easily with all of healthcare.

Think about how this has changed over the years. We have hundreds of new ways to measure the quality and effectiveness of the care we provide. We also have the systems to be able to measure the effectiveness of the care we provide. Furthermore, we have drastically more effective ways to communicate the results of the studies and data collection we do. We no longer have to wait months for the journal to come out and be sent to doctors who then have to find the time to read it. We’re in an instant communication environment.

The CMIO of Intermountain, Stanley M. Huff, MD, made a fascinating observation about our ability as humans to understand the impact of the choices we make. He said, “The human mind doesn’t have the ability to identify the difference between a 3 in 100 and 4 in 100 difference in results.” A difference like this is so subtle that we are unable to note the difference. If you ask that 1 person who got a better result, they certainly note the difference. If you look at the cost of that 1 person who has a bad outcome, that makes a huge difference in healthcare costs as well.

We need more scientific tracking of outcomes like this and then we need to implement workflows and communication that ensures that the best treatment is being used. Unfortunately we don’t have this type of tracking and understanding about every aspect of healthcare. That’s why it’s true that healthcare is more science than art. However, over time healthcare will become more and more science. Our healthcare IT solutions should better help us know and implement the science of healthcare.