Imagining the future of quality in medicine: Dr. Vikas Saini honored with Avedis Donabedian International Award

Systems awareness and systems design are important for health professionals, but are not enough…..Ultimately, the secret of quality is love.

Dr. Avedis Donabedian

Last week, Lown president Dr. Vikas Saini was presented with the Donabedian International Award. 

Dr. Avedis Donabedian was a revolutionary physician who is credited with creating the field of healthcare quality and outcomes research. His model for measuring quality, the Donabedian model, has shaped the way healthcare quality is conceptualized. Like our founder Dr. Bernard Lown, Dr. Donabedian was a physician activist who advocated for compassion in healthcare. 

In his acceptance remarks, Dr. Saini shared his vision for a future of medicine that uses new technologies for socially responsible goals, while still keeping empathy and the human connection in medicine at the forefront.  View the video or read excerpts from the transcript of his speech below.

On May 3, 2023, Dr. Vikas Saini was honored with the Avedis Donabedian International Award.

Dr. Saini on the art of healing: “Across the millennia a shaman accompanied us whenever we had an illness, whether serious or minor, reminding us of our frailty and transience in this world. Healers have always been honored–for healing if successful, but mostly for being present as a trusted companion on an unwelcome journey.”

Dr. Saini on AI: “Intelligent machines could unburden us of the tedious calculations of clinical effectiveness and cost utilities. More than that, they could democratize expertise and radically reduce the division of labor between knowledge workers and manual ones.  Most importantly, they offer the promise of democratizing healthcare policy itself by helping non-specialists understand complex issues, set priorities and make trade-offs. But the barriers are enormous. AI models trained on backward-looking datasets will reproduce biases and reinforce obsolete paradigms. The massive capital required increases the risk of monopolies of the few.  Critically, machines have no values; they do not care about people. It is therefore urgent that all of us engage in a debate on the role of AI in reshaping health care.”

Dr. Saini on the future: “There is a yearning worldwide…because people want to escape the cul-de-sac of a sterile modernity and return to a geography of connection and of solidarity–solidarity with each other and with the natural world. If we fail, we may become the tools of our tools and turn machine intelligence into the enemy of human freedom. If we succeed, we may create the space for all health workers to focus their energies on Right Care for their patients.  Freed from the burden of repetition, we could enjoy a future of radical fulfillment and a democracy of knowledge that enables a democracy of health. If we can imagine such a future we can create it–a world that allows us to return to our roles as shamans in a digital village, free to focus on the things that matter most: warmth, empathy, and profound human presence that can overcome the angst of the clinical moment.”