Episode 72: Problems


American doctors spend the majority of their time during the day on the computer, either writing or reading notes about their patients; only a small fraction is spent with the human beings in their care. Technology itself – especially the electronic medical record – has often been blamed for this. But in this episode – a recorded grand rounds that I gave at the San Francisco VA in 2022 – I argue that this alienation has its roots in the way we’ve decided to organize clinical data, and the assumptions that we’ve made about the nature of medical care. In particular, I’m going to discuss one of the most influential medical thinkers of the second half of the 20th century, Larry Weed, his invention of the problem-oriented medical record and the SOAP note, and how his insight – that medical documentation fundamentally influences how we think about our patients – changed the way we think about our patients.