Lessons from Jurassic Park: Patients as complex adaptive systems

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


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

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)755-760
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of evaluation in clinical practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2009


  • Complex systems
  • Family practice
  • Models
  • Patient care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Lessons from Jurassic Park: Patients as complex adaptive systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this