On the Use of Intelligent Machines to Achieve Precise Diagnoses
Ophthalmologist Arthur Benjamin is known not only as an eye surgeon at his namesake Benjamin Eye Institute, but also teaches students and future doctors undergoing residency at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). It is for this reason that he stays current on all the newest innovations, which he strives to epitomize in practice. We should, however, first talk about his theory of success.
Can you please articulate what constitutes good medical treatment?
Let’s start from the beginning. The patient comes in. First of all, you need to listen to them very carefully and attentively. Take into account their medical history. This includes everything about them, and not just their illnesses (diabetes, thyroidism), symptoms, or injuries, but also what a person does on a daily basis. What do they use their vision for? An artist or photographer uses it in one way, but a film director or musical conductor uses it in another. Similarly, everyone drives a car and thus needs to see the road, but a professional driver requires additional considerations. Even engineers will have their own particular spiel. Consequently, an experienced physician’s assistant or doctor must know where to lead the conversation. So, you may ask, what is it that I’m getting at? The answer is that we need to develop detailed solutions in order to achieve the best results, e.g. addressing the patients’ complaints (loss of visual acuity, discomfort, pain, etc.), and this requires an entire infrastructure.
What is that infrastructure composed of?
First and foremost, you need the right employees. No one can do everything. The doctor must rely on a staff of experienced and well-trained workers.
So it all depends on the staff?
Well, yes and no. Additionally, everything must be done in such a way that ensures the comfort of the patient. The office should be easily accessible, clean, and attractive in appearance, as well as have a pleasant odor, in addition to being filled with knowledgeable, competent people. Secondly, even the most attentive and well-educated doctor needs the proper diagnostic infrastructure. If you do not have the latest equipment, which will allow you to diagnose various medical conditions, then you simply cannot be an effective healer. It is unrealistic otherwise. Good intentions, attentive listening, and a pat on the back isn’t enough; you must also provide treatment. We need to figure out what the problem is, and therefore it is necessary to constantly seek improvements in diagnostic infrastructure.
Infrastructure is often an ill-defined and overused word. How, then, do you embody this word in your practice?
We have a large number of very complex and specific instruments. But let’s pick up where we left off. The next step is having a doctor that is not only well-educated, or trained under the best specialists in the field, but also one that actively teaches others. Any physician that has ever been an instructor or teacher knows that while the students learn, the teacher learns reciprocally from their students. They pose tricky questions, keep you on your toes, and force you to stay afloat. Therefore, a good teacher should always be on the lookout, searching for new information in the scientific journals, attending conferences, communicating with colleagues, and participating in unions and organizations. The process of self-improvement for a doctor is never-ending. During the course of our education in medical school, colleges, universities, and residencies, we also learn how to continue our education as a life-long endeavor.
So is that all? The staff and the doctor?
The doctor must be well-educated, love to go to work, and love what he does, but this still isn’t all. They still need experience. Nothing in the world can replace actual experience. Experience is the most severe of teachers, because it admonishes you before it actually teaches. So if you don’t want to be someone’s lab rat, look for a doctor (in any medical field) who is in their prime, who is well-educated, has colleagues that they consult with… there is the infrastructure, in the students that learn from them and the amount of experience they possess. This combination of things allows us to offer something that few of our colleagues can afford, and that is a certain guarantee of success.
In other words, it’s a promise to put forth the best effort possible?
That’s what a guarantee is. However, any doctor can make a promise that they will try, as 99% of doctors are good people with good intentions. I don’t know of any doctors that want to make their patients worse. Everyone wants to do well, but it doesn’t always turn out like that. Why is that? Usually, we will evaluate their qualifications, or perhaps their lack of education, talent, experience, or equipment. Not only do you need the latest diagnostic equipment, but also the knowledge to use it. Take, for example, a doctor reading an x-ray. He has the same machines, the same technology, and the same scan as other offices. Yet some offices will read the x-ray correctly, and others will not. Again, why is that? That is because, at our office, we have an extremely vital, professional operator. But you must understand that these kind of high-level, experienced operators cost money. We cannot make a good guarantee for only a few dollars. A lot of people are involved in a successful operation. This is important to convey to our readers that are wondering about our difference in price.
What exactly does your guarantee consist of?
If we promised to rid you of glasses, then we will do everything necessary to achieve that, including free Lasik or other options.
Interview by V. Koifman
Photo: Sebastian Varo
Translation: Richard Grenwelge