an insider's look at digitizing medical records for physicians

Digital Distractions of Doctors

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With each new abundance comes a scarcity as a counterbalance.

This appears to be the message of a very well written commentary by Dennis W. Jirsch MD PHD, editor of the Alberta Medical Digest.

Dr. Jirsch points to the undeniable benefits that electronic medical records has brought to modern medical practice with its instantaneous access to labs, reports, historical patient data, and so forth – not to mention its eventual contribution to the fascinating area of big data and predictive medicine.  Yet, the patients’ lament of “He doesn’t stop looking at that screen” and “I wish he’d look at me” should not be ignored.  As well, when you factor in questions like “Who controls the information?”, “How do we ensure privacy?”, “How do we share it?”, one cannot help but think that perhaps we’ve negotiated a big benefit for a series of setbacks and challenges.

The biggest of the setbacks would appear to be the loss of depth.  In our never-ending search for the latest and hottest news, trends, messages, alerts, we have sacrificed the desire and ability to become an expert at anything, and instead we are all opting to become a little knowledgeable about everything.  Furthermore, is it really knowledge that we’re gaining in the end with the countless non-consequential emails that steal away precious time, the merging of legitimate web-sourced information with irrelevant and anecdotal nonsense, updates, etc.

Dr. Jirsch puts forth an important reminder to his medical colleagues that they must win the battle for attention.  A flickering screen should not always be more compelling that the patient stories.  Physicians must be mindful of the fact that there is a job at hand to do that is more important than getting lost in passive, irrelevant distraction.

Needless to say, this is an important lesson for us all.

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