lown cardiovascular research foundation


Doctor As Shaman Of The Digital Village, And Other Blog Pearls

Dr. Vikas Saini

“Shaman of the digital village.”

What an intriguing phrase. It refers to the special magic that human doctors will still possess even if IBM’s Watson and other electronic tools take over many of their current functions. And it comes from the keyboard of Dr. Vikas Saini, president of the Lown Cardiovascular Research Foundation and — I’m delighted to report — another Boston health care leader who has stepped up to the online podium.

For bookmarking purposes, here’s his blog. It’s titled “Off the Cuff: A Cardioblog,” but though the Lown Center is renowned for its heart work, Off The Cuff is by no means limited to cardiovascular thoughts. And thank goodness for that. Vikas has a wide-ranging past: Indian origin, youth in Canada, Princeton philosophy major, Johns Hopkins and Harvard clinical and research training. Also, involvement in the medical device industry and in the management side of a big Cape Cod physicians’ group.

“Talking about Skype and video for medicine is like asking the question in 1905, ‘Will the telephone have a role in health care?'”

Put it all together, and he can comment from a personal knowledge base on anything from health care economics to new heart drugs. When he talks about the American “health care bubble,” I feel dark dread. Not that he limits himself to his expertises, though; the blog’s logo is “humani nihil a me alienum puto,” which means “I consider nothing that is human alien to me.” (Thank you, Wikipedia; I didn’t have to resort to Google Translator.)

About the digital shaman: In a post earlier this month titled “Doctors in a brave new world,” Vikas responds to a recent op-ed piece evangelizing a technological revolution in health care that could move “much of health care out of hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices, and into our everyday lives,” through home and mobile monitors, remote communication and the like.

Vikas welcomes the technology’s promise, but writes:

The challenge for me is in defining the role of the doctor in that scenario. That depends in part on the bigger question of whether people really want to grapple with their anxiety about mortality (which every illness however mild seems to trigger, even if it is in some primal, subconscious sense) in isolation from other caring human beings. Continue reading