[Tripping On…] Healthcare: 100% Subjectivity

As much as I’d like to believe that healthcare is objective work, where you’d generally get the same advice or treatment from any doctor, the more I’ve been tripping through the American Healthcare System, the more I have to set aside that sort of idyllic consideration and return to my memories of working in Healthcare IT for four years, where some of my customers were doctors, and realizing that doctors and doctoring is subjective work.

I don’t mean this to be entirely negative, so let me give an analogy.

When I consider the similarities between the professions of doctors and technical professionals, there are objective elements in terms of training. Both professions, and of course others but these are the two I’m most familiar with on a professional level, have training and accreditation paths. There was a term I learned early into my career regarding techincal professionals: paper tiger. This term seems to have some deep political connotations, so excuse the potential for problematic lack of considerations, but the definition of the term as I learned it was ‘someone that has a degree but doesn’t have the skill to match it.’

Basically, people can get trained without actually learning said training.

The theory among many technical professionals, then, is that getting any one of the myriad certifications within IT is generally not as good as having the equivalent experience. There is a general mentality of ‘street smarts’ versus ‘book smarts’ throughout most IT departments, and I can generally sympathize with that having been a career professional for many years, whereas in my first professional years, I would have said that the degrees and ‘book smarts’ is more important. I still think that both are important, and the ‘street smarts’ only professionals I’ve met have generally understood concepts to a working degree without understanding the underlying theories that might help tie things together.

As I’ve thought about it, I would say the same applies to doctors.

The doctors I worked for in healthcare IT generally knew very little about computers. I don’t mean that they should understand the totality of all technical concepts, but they generally were intimidated by the basics of computers, and delegated anything from rebooting to basic computer understanding to others. This mentality is common within other professions as well, so I don’t specifically criticize doctors here, but it does point to a sort of specific focus on only certain responsibilities which is common in the ‘book smarts’ over ‘street smarts’ mentality. A well-rounded professional would generally be able to figure out the basics of many different tasks, even if they involved concepts outside of their specific profession.

This is where the subjectivity kicks into high gear.

In my opinion, memorizing concepts within books is not as important as knowing how to apply those concepts, and that sort of application at advanced levels lets you navigate through unrelated concepts. I studied technical troubleshooting in what I will admit to being a below-average college bachelor’s degree course. It was new, experimental, and the teachers didn’t have a particular interest in their coursework. I learned much of what I know professionally from the certifications I studied and the application of those studies in the years of real-life scenarios. I would say that, now, I can apply my troubleshooting methodologies to many other fields, even if I would fail at every single one due to my lack of understanding of the career-specific jargon and concepts.

The better professionals I’ve met, too, can navigate outside their professions.

I learned this from friend-of-the-website NamedGhost, specifically, who taught me about how in small towns you can’t pigeonhole yourself within certain professions. You take the jobs you can get rather than entirely specialize. Although specialization has its benefits, it also leads you into the rut of being so singular focused that you might miss the most common concepts outside of your limited views. This is where I don’t want to seem overly critical toward doctors, because it does require specialization and high degrees of focus, but, I think this is where that subjectivity matter is important to consider.

What if doctors were objective in their studies?

They, along with any professional, would essentially be automated machines. Their AI would take in the information provided to them and they would refer to their computer banks of information to diagnose. It would cut out human error, but the human factor also is able to translate concepts from the non-doctoral, non-technical statements made by patients into the doctoral, technical concepts that could be understood by doctors. This translation could be built into the computer AI, but I imagine that would be infinitely more complex and also lead to elements of subjectivity as the AI would need to take educated guesses about what the patient said.

These meandry thoughts inspire me to consider doctoring options and alternatives.

If I had believed the first PCP I had up until the start of my spine pain in late-April 2020, where I don’t believe he believed I had spine pain as he told me that I should go back to work, were it not for my persistence and doubting his opinion, then I would have taken his advice and gone back to work. I haven’t been physically able to work since I went out on medical leave. I’ve had spine pain – most days, terrible; some days, acceptable – all day, every day since April. I’ve had to argue for my health with many doctors that, too, might have looked at me with their subjective perspective. They might compare me to other patients they’ve treated or they might have not considered me much at all.

Would objective doctors be better?

If I have a general rule now, I don’t believe ‘the plaque on the wall’ as a sign that a doctor is good, just as I learned that someone with a degree or certification isn’t automatically a good technical professional.

However, note: My highly subjective perspective has multiple negative experiences, so it probably is flawed.

Quotes: None.
Sources: My professional and personal experiences.
Inspirations: Objective technical support relies on documentation in specific situations. “If X, do Y, and the result will be Z.” The problem I’ve encountered with relying on documentation is when the result isn’t Z. That’s when troubleshooting needs to kick in to fix the issue. In that way, focusing too much on the documentation can lead to trouble in organic, disorganized organizations.
Related: Sober Living essays and Tripping On [The American Healthcare System] chapters.
Picture: Template
Written On: 2020 November 20 [2:56pm to 3:24pm]
Last Edited: 2020 November 20 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]


My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.