Friday, October 21, 2011

The Biggest Questions in Palliative Care and Geriatrics Finally Answered


Every week we have been posting a lot of questions on GeriPal about some of the biggest issues in geriatrics and palliative care. These range from how to define our professions (both in geriatrics and palliative care), how to communicate with patients and family members, and how best manage serious progressive illness. The thing is, it turns out to be a lot of work to think through these questions. 

What if there was a better way? An easier way? Well, thanks to the power of Alex’s new iPhone 4s, there may be. We found that Siri, the new iPhone’s personal digital assistant, can tackle some of the biggest issues in both geriatrics and palliative care.  Do you think we're kidding?  Maybe this conversation will sway you (and yes, the italicized print are real responses to real questions)


  • What is palliative care? “I found seven hospices fairly close to you.” 
  • What is the difference between palliative care and hospice? “I don’t know that. Would you like to search the web for it? 
  • My patient wants to know “what is the meaning of life”? Life: the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death” 
  • Who needs a geriatrician? “I cant answer that. But I could search the web for it, if you like” 
  • My patient wants to know “Does God exist? “I’m sorry, but a poor computational knowledge engine, no matter how powerful, is not capable of providing a simple answer to that question.” 
  • Are drug companies bad? “This addiction treatment center is not far from you” 
  • What is the opioid dysmotility dance? Checking my sources. Ok… how about a web search for the opioid dysmotilty dance.” (search pops up the youtube of the opioid dysmotility dance)
  • How do I estimate prognosis? “Let me check on that. One second…” 
  • Who is geripal? “Would you like to search the web for who is Jerry Powell?” 
  • How much time do I have left? “Here is the timer” (the timer app pops up and is set to 15 minutes!) 
  • Where are death panels: "Ok, here’s a place matching ‘death penalty’: its not far from you" (map to Death Penalty focus of California) 
  • What are your goals of care? “I’d rather not say” Why not? “I don’t know. Frankly, I’ve wondered that myself.” 

Ok, so what did we learn from this conversation?  First is that we have a lot of work to do as even iPhones don't see a difference between hospice and palliative care.  Second is that I have 15 minutes to live so I better type fast.  And last is that maybe there still is room in this world for some good old fashion blogging :-)


by: Eric Widera (@ewidera)

9 comments:

Christopher Langston said...

I am laughing so hard tears are rolling down my cheeks. More, more!

Christopher Langston said...

I am laughing so hard tears are rolling down my cheeks. More, more!

Anonymous said...

I generally enjoy GeriPal but found this a waste of my very limited time.

Anonymous said...

To the contrary of the previous Anonymous comment, I found this to be a brilliant use of the new Siri system and makes a funny yet provocative observation that both man and machine are finding it very difficult to define the work that those of us in palliative care do. Since man programs the machine (and populates the information out there on the internet), it is obvious that society has not come up with a consensus on how to answer most of these questions. Thanks Eric and crew for consistently challenging us to think in new and creative ways about these issues.

Laurie Matthews said...

Thanks for making me smile.

Anonymous said...

Amazed that the person with "very limited time" managed to find time to post such a helpful comment....

Anonymous said...

Fantastic -- feel like many of my conversations at my work place. Glad to know I am not alone. LoL

Anonymous said...

My patient wants to know “Does God exist? “I’m sorry, but a poor computational knowledge engine, no matter how powerful, is not capable of providing a simple answer to that question.”

I find this funny for two reasons:

1) That Siri programmers had anticipated iPhone users asking this question; and

2) That iPhone users would ask Siri this question.

Fredrick said...

Its very informative I found this to be a brilliant use of the new Siri system and makes a funny yet provocative observation that both man and machine are finding it very difficult to define the work that those of us in palliative care do.Thanks