THE DISTINCTION I WANT TO MAKE IS THAT BOTH QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE INFORMATION NEED TO BE GIVEN EQUAL ATTENTION. DO NOT PLACE QUANTITATIVE INFORMATION ON A PEDESTAL ABOVE QUALITATIVE.
This past weekend I attended a continuing education seminar through the McKenzie Institute, an amazing assessment and treatment method. As I was standing in the back of the room (yes, I'm that person because sitting too long drives me crazy) watching the instructor assess a patient, it hit me... One of the reasons this method works so well is because although it utilizes quantitative information, THE QUALITATIVE INFORMATION DOES NOT GET OVERLOOKED.
The world of science and much of the world outside of science rely on quantitative information. Measurements, recordings and tangible evidence are the focus of research studies. People discuss game scores, pounds they lost, horsepower in cars, number of emails in their inbox, length of time they worked and the list could go on. But let's apply this thinking to the world of medicine.
Being an evidence-informed doctor, I absolutely agree with using quantitative information to progress healthcare.
Here's the problem: WE FORGET ABOUT QUALITY.
What about the description of interactions? As opposed to attempting to quantify everything, we should absorb the environment around us. Describe (mentally, not aloud) how engaged your doctor is in your visit or how thorough of a physical exam is performed or how educated you are on your condition....
The qualitative description suddenly becomes immensely important.
Consider someone with years of education and "alphabet soup" behind their name indicating many, many credentials. Does the number of their credentials indicate they will provide quality care? It could, but not always. We must consider the quality of situations.
Although qualitative information does not hold as prestigious a position as quantitative information in research... there is still significant validity. Especially in medicine, quantitative information is the "gold standard". We know for a fact how many milligrams of a drug to administer, how deep an incision needs to be, how much motion occurs at a joint and how much time it takes for a procedure (medical coding is sometimes based on this). What about the rest of the picture? This quantifiable information provides only some insight into a much more complex organism.
Let's take joint motion as an example: I can move your shoulder complex through various motions and take measurements to determine exact degrees occurring in a particular direction (quantitative). However, even if you can achieve full shoulder extension (reaching behind) what does the movement look like? Do you experience grinding/clicking or cold sensation in your hand? Does your scapula move appropriately in relation to your thoracic cage and neck? Are you compensating with inappropriate muscles to achieve the full range of motion? These are obviously all qualitative observations and ones that I make on a daily basis.
At the end of the day, our society places too great an emphasis on quantity and too little emphasis on quality. The quality of: our work, our interactions with others and our overall life. Life is not simply measured in the number of years you have lived but in the experiences you have had (it sounds a little corny, but it is true).
IF WE ALL FOCUSED MORE ON THE QUALITY OF OUR EXPERIENCES, EVERYONE WOULD BENEFIT, ESPECIALLY IN HEALTHCARE.