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The declining power of the human touch in the digital world.

HumanInsight The declining power of the human touch in the digital world.

Recenti Prog Med. 2024 Apr;115(4):175-178. doi: 10.1701/4246.42229.


Humans are social creatures, and touch is the most primitive form of relationship. In the context of the traditional medical examination, touch, palpation, is essential to diagnose or suspect pathology. But it is not only an issue of semeiotics. The physician's ability to examine a body through his or her hands is at the heart of the doctor-patient relationship. Moreover, we have been witnessing for many years to the progressive downgrading of the objective examination in clinical practice. First, the obsolescence of interaction with the patient due to the lure of diagnostic technology, then the "social distancing" of Covid-19 and, finally, the expansion of telemedicine has contributed to the distancing of caregivers from patients. The same technology that tends to distance doctor and patient provides haptic wearable devices that can digitize touch and open up application scenarios that are still largely unexplored. These, however, cannot replace human interaction. What can we do to preserve the culture of physical contact in the doctor-patient relationship? As always, awareness is the first step. The technology that separates us from patients is not the real problem. It is only when it becomes an end instead of a means that we risk losing centuries of medical tradition. It is therefore necessary to strike a balance between using technology and ensuring that health care professionals maintain a central role in providing emotional support and understanding to patients. Such issues should be introduced early in the medical student's training. In the course of study, not only the mechanisms of disease should be taught, but also how to approach care with compassion, empathy and "human touch". In any case, even if digital culture eventually prevails, it is necessary to practice at least "touch" as interpersonal sensitivity, gentleness, and the ability to intercept the other's state of mind and respect it.

PMID:38526381 | DOI:10.1701/4246.42229

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