Losing touch with the healing art: Dermatology and the decline of pastoral doctoring

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Technological advance in society and medicine has brought tremendous improvements and convenience but also a degree of depersonalization. The personal and pastoral aspects of medical practice, which are probably more important in helping patients toward health than we realize, are becoming increasingly stifled by health care systems which are increasingly "scientific," technological, and "efficient." Clinical practice in dermatology requires pastoral as well as technical skills, art as well as science, and yet the balance of current medical culture increasingly favors and encourages "science" over "art." In dermatology, this bias is evident in a reductionist focus of research, the move towards evidence-based medicine and the emergence of teledermatology. Although all these developments are extremely important and valuable, their effect on the doctor-patient relationship needs to be considered carefully. Increasingly rapid scientific advance is paradoxically providing diminishing returns for patients and the healing art is still very much in demand. (J Am Acad Dermatol 2000;43:875-8.)

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