On the other end of the line, a slightly hoarse voice, accompanied by an unmistakable laugh. It is Mrs. Merce, at 81 years of age, she sounds in good spirits. I can’t see her; technological problems have limited access to a video call. However, she chats and answers my routine questions with the good humor and accuracy that I have known her for several years. Getting to know her makes things easier; it would not be the same if it were a first consultation. If discovering the ailment that affects a patient is difficult having it in front of you, now without seeing it and without touching it makes the practice of medicine more complex.
However, it is not the time to complain, but to learn and take advantage of the new developments brought upon by extreme situations. It is well known that in times of crisis the world is capable of producing technologies that have resulted in notorious benefits for mankind. Just to note a reference, thanks to World War II, the necessary resources were invested for the development of cortisone as a drug (1).
The pandemic is of course no exception, technological advances have allowed us to mitigate the restrictions imposed by health authorities in order to avoid viral contagion. The rapid growth of virtuality has allowed us to maintain the social and work contact necessary to sustain the “status quo” of “this poor, burdened and suffering humanity”.
Technological elements available allow many workers to maintain a large part of the world’s economic apparatus from the safe and secure home. As important as the economy is to be able to maintain family relationships and friendships with people who live outside the home. With the available technological elements it is possible to see and hear with excellent resolution, all kinds of events previously unsuspected.
From those first work and academic events, facilitated by virtual platforms, we went on to cover practically all the social activities of which human beings are capable: birthday celebrations, participation in masses for the dead, weddings, concerts, plays and everything that society can think of, there is no limit.
Thanks to technology and the intrepidity of the organizers, events that in other times seemed impossible were carried out. For example, the great world rheumatology events EULAR, ACR and PANLAR were successful, thanks to technological development.
However, something is missing in this virtual communication for it to be accepted in an unobjectionable way. It is not enough to send messages set to the best melodies and beautiful backgrounds shot in the highest resolution, visible from any angle. The important senses of vision and hearing fall short when it comes to complete communication.
It turns out that the exchange of information acquired by visual or auditory means must be consolidated with the use of a sense that is a little less valued, but just as important as the other four, the sense of touch. This sense, resulting from the stimulation of numerous receptors located in our largest organ, the skin, concretizes and enhances communication. When hands shake firmly and vigorously, it should be taken for granted that a good agreement has been reached. An embrace shaken with the enthusiasm that allows us to perceive the forms and warmth of the other person, demonstrates the sincere affection between the huggers. A quick and flirtatious touch of the cheeks accompanied by an accomplice smile, augurs a next meeting or a wet and deep kiss guarantees a more intense relationship in the next few minutes. Do not doubt it, the sense of touch seals and endorses visual and auditory communication.
Touch, that is the aspect that virtuality lacks to be perfect.
Uchibayashi M. [Forgotten episodes of the birth of cortisone]. Yakushigaku Zasshi. 2001;36(1):70-5. Available at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11777000/