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March 17, 1975

The First Five Minutes

JAMA. 1975;231(11):1169-1170. doi:10.1001/jama.1975.03240230043023

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Something is slipping away. Something vital, close to the core, is being eroded. Communication with patients—the heart of medicine, the essence of our art—is in peril from several aspects. In the past I have spoken of my fear of computers and my uneasiness about the integration of paramedical personnel into the practice of medicine. Let us ruminate each in turn.

I acknowledge the virtue of the computer as a gatherer and caretaker of lifelong medical records. At first glance, how can one deprecate such a marvelous capability: to have the entire medical history of a patient from birth until this moment—as near as a computer terminal in your office!

But I am worried. If I can punch the proper buttons and receive the information from the monster's bowels—who else can do it? What is to prevent anyone with access to the same buttons from also getting this extraordinarily personal information?