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J Eval Clin Pract. 2009 Aug;15(4):755-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2753.2009.01228.x.

Lessons from Jurassic Park: patients as complex adaptive systems.

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Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX 78229-3900, USA.



With realization that non-linearity is generally the rule rather than the exception in nature, viewing patients and families as complex adaptive systems may lead to a better understanding of health and illness. Doctors who successfully practise the 'art' of medicine may recognize non-linear principles at work without having the jargon needed to label them.


Complex adaptive systems are systems composed of multiple components that display complexity and adaptation to input. These systems consist of self-organized components, which display complex dynamics, ranging from simple periodicity to chaotic and random patterns showing trends over time.


Understanding the non-linear dynamics of phenomena both internal and external to our patients can (1) improve our definition of 'health'; (2) improve our understanding of patients, disease and the systems in which they converge; (3) be applied to future monitoring systems; and (4) be used to possibly engineer change.


Such a non-linear view of the world is quite congruent with the generalist perspective.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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