Empathy by numbers

A few days ago a friend sent me the following You Tube link. Here a very sincere medic describes the problems that doctors have in communicating with their patients, particularly in demonstrating empathy.
He goes onto describe how doctors have too little time to work on this in face -to-face training with other doctors or patients. The solution that he offers is a computer program that identifies those “empathic opportunities in a conversation”. He then goes onto say that having “learned how to recognise [empathic opportunities] … to give them the tools for how to respond”.
Just to stress, I don’t doubt his sincerity in addressing the problem, what saddens me is how we seek to use the world of IT to find solutions to problems that essentially are the bedrock of human nature. For example, the words used such as “opportunity”, “tools” and “respond” imply a staid and linear form of communication devoid of feeling, empathy and “deep connection” with the other person. This point was emphasised for me when the medic then went onto say that a patient/doctor conversation could be “coded” and used for a number of purposes including “maintenance of certification and practice”.
For me it questions the remit and scope of IT. Perhaps IT should be there to free time for doctors to have those face to face conversations rather than for its codification and regulation.


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