Last week a special conference called TEDMED happened, which brought together thought leaders in health and technology, as well as leaders from many fields which at first glance might surprise you.

We saw the future of health care in discussions about robotic limbs, over-the-counter DNA testing, and pills with (edible!) computer chips inside them. Equally eye-opening was inspirational poetry, soul-touching live music, and magicians who made us question our assumptions about the impossible. I even learned how to hold my breath for 4 minutes!

At first, I judged these latter sessions to be light entertainment designed simply as a break between the real content of the conference. Now I’m not so sure. Health is a science we still understand only superficially. Surely a century from now we will look back at the state of the art of 2009 and see that medicine was in its infancy. I expect (and hope) that health care also has a long evolution ahead. We — patients, clinicians, caregivers, friends — will learn to take better care of each other as we uncover the mysteries of science and technology.

Perhaps we can also learn about health care by listening to the way music and other art can heal, and the way magic can make us challenge our assumptions about what is possible.