Saturday, December 18, 2004

Open Source Medicine

Ever go to a Doctor and have them say "You'll be fine in a week or two, just take it easy and drink plenty of water. Call if it gets worse." Or worse, they don't know what's wrong with you, but they tell you not to worry about it. Maybe you don’t have the money to go to a doctor in the first place. Maybe there aren’t any doctors around to go to.

Every industry has history, tradition and practices that are built on what came before. Sometimes this makes things less efficient, being stuck on a rut that doesn’t allow for innovation. Being a medical doctor is expensive and takes many years to achieve. Even nursing takes a lot of education. Some jobs in medical industry pay very well, and overall health care is a solid influential business. And it works. America has the best healthcare in the world. Doctors know what they are doing and are effective at healing people.

There's also an entrenched attitude both with doctors and the regular people they work with; medicine is mysterious. It's hard to learn and you should really leave it to professionals. After all, you don't want to make a mistake and kill yourself do you? Well, I have a different attitude. I'm a computer guy, in hobby and profession. I'm a collage student; I can learn detailed and complicated information. With a couple computers and an internet connection anyone can teach themselves to be a professional computer builder/repairman, programmer and administrator. Another thing you can find for free online, or for a small fee, is weapons instructions. How to build and use all sorts of bombs, guns, and blades. What I wish I could download is a manual, a simple, easy to use training guide for how to be a medical doctor. Start with first aid, and explain as you go how the body works, and how increasingly more serious injuries are dealt with. How bacteria and viruses work, and most of all, how to diagnose common illnesses. How more serious problems differ from common ones. Tables of medicines, what is used to treat what, and most importantly, how the drugs work, what they are actually doing with your body. If all this information was tied together in a simple format where the 'how to fix' parts are tied to how the body works I think a document could be created that would allow the common 'man on the street' to take care of simple and recoverable medical problems, and be able to go to a doctor well informed when a more serious issue arises.

The reason I think this way is because of doing computer tech support. Amongst ourselves computer people complain about 'idiot users' who need to use computers to do their work, but don't know how their computers work, and don't want to learn how. It's very frustrating to answer the same simple questions, and those who have the patience for it try to teach users as they go along so you don't have to fix the same problem again. Information for important things should be freely available, or at least easily accessible. Just like many people have computers and need to learn how to use them responsibly, everyone has a body, and should know how it works and how to do simple diagnostics and repair at the least.

There is medical info available online, you can look up diseases and symptoms. It's not always easy to know what's backed up by traditional medical science and what's just guessing. There's no solid training manual checked and ok'ed by doctors and nurses. I think we really need one. Anyone can learn. People who are poor, or who happen to live in 3rd world countries need medical training. It could mean people don't need to go to the doctor for 'easy stuff', leaving the medical profession to concentrate on serious and complex cases. It would help people see if they are interested in medicine enough to want to learn more and become a MD. And finally, an accessible manual of medical knowledge and people who are familiar with it will help people be better prepared for mass disaster. We really shouldn’t be ignorant.


Anonymous said...

Hmm... Interesting idea. I could see it working for the low level stuff, but I bet there is already a book out there for that. The more involved stuff would be interesting...


Anonymous said...

Are you going to update anytime soon???