A Message from the President

Published September 29, 2023


Andrew Taylor Still's Legacy in the Digital Age: Embracing Humanism and Technology in Osteopathic Medicine

In an era driven by technological advancements, the legacy of Andrew Taylor Still, the visionary behind osteopathic medicine, increasingly resonates as a beacon of humanism and hands-on care.

Andrew Taylor Still's profound belief in treating patients as whole individuals, rather than a collection of symptoms, is perhaps more important today than it was in the 19th century. At a time when electronic health records and telemedicine dominate, the risk of depersonalization looms high. However, osteopathic physicians can draw inspiration from Still's commitment to a human-centered approach to ensure that technology remains a tool to enhance, rather than replace, the patient-physician connection.

At the core of osteopathic philosophy is the idea that understanding the patient's story, experiences and emotions is essential for effective healing. Used appropriately, today’s technology can afford physicians more time to engage meaningfully with patients and enrich the relationship. By incorporating patient narratives and preferences along with clinical data into these records, osteopathic physicians can ensure that the human dimension of care remains central, even as technology streamlines processes.

Still's principle of "find it, fix it, and leave it alone" underscores the value of hands-on assessment and treatment in osteopathic medicine. The structural examination is critical to obtain information that can be used to support structural health—as a gateway to overall health. And as technology continues to evolve, there is immense potential for synergy between hands-on structural evaluation, osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) and digital tools. Advanced imaging, wearable devices and telehealth platforms have the potential to enhance diagnostic accuracy and extend the reach of hands-on care, rather than replace it.

Consider the possibility of modern imaging technology providing insights into structural anomalies that might require intervention with OMT.  By leveraging these technologies, osteopathic physicians can target their interventions even more precisely, maximizing the effectiveness of their hands-on treatments. Wearable devices, such as smart garments or sensors, can provide real-time data on patients' movement patterns and physiological responses, enabling tailored treatment plans that align with Still's emphasis on individualized care and the importance of structural health to overall health.

In this period of accelerated technology development, the heart (humanism) and hands of osteopathic medicine cannot only coexist with technology but also amplify its impact. The key lies in maintaining the vital harmony that Still advocated for—in this case a balance between advancements that drive efficiency and better diagnostics and the essential human element that fuels compassion and understanding.

In embracing AI (Artificial Intelligence) and technology, we need not stand at a crossroads. AI can deftly manage analytical tasks, freeing physicians to spend more time cultivating deeper connections with their patients. By harmoniously integrating AI-guided diagnostics with hands-on treatments, we amplify the potential for comprehensive healing.

Consider telehealth, where AI-driven algorithms can assess patient data prior to virtual consultations. This approach potentially equips the physicians with valuable insights—such as when to utilize in-person sessions to ensure that the hands-on component of osteopathic care is not compromised. During virtual consultations, the focus can shift from data interpretation to understanding the patient's narrative, emotions and concerns—the embodiment of Still's principles and a mechanism to maintain empathy. This blending ensures that AI streamlines care while maintaining the importance of human touch and connection.

As we navigate the future of healthcare, Andrew Taylor Still's wisdom and principles still serve as a guiding light for osteopathic physicians. By preserving the heart (humanism) and hands of the profession while harnessing the power of technology, we can elevate patient care to new heights.

The challenge lies in our ability to strike a balance, where the precision of technology enhances the art of healing, and where the humanity of medicine remains at the forefront. By harnessing AI as an evolutionary "plow," we can uncover insights, provide precise interventions and still uphold core values of osteopathic medicine—humanity, empathy and individualized care.

Let us, as custodians of Still's legacy, embark on this transformative journey, embracing AI and other emerging technologies while nurturing the heart and hands of everyone choosing this distinct pathway to the practice of medicine.

Robert Cain
Robert A. Cain, DO
AACOM President & CEO