It sounds counterintuitive, but could touchscreen technology make HM more personal? Satish Misra, MD, thinks so. A first-year internal-medicine resident at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, he also serves as a senior editor for iMedicalApps.com, a blog that publishes commentary and reviews of mobile medical technology and applications in the healthcare realm.
Dr. Misra envisions smartphones and tablet computers as a way of connecting more with patients. “It’s just a much more interactive platform than your standard keyboard and screen,” he says. “It’s something that’s easy to put in front of both myself and the patient, as opposed to between us. It sort of demystifies a lot of what you’re trying to say.
“You can imagine if you’re trying to explain endoscopy to a patient. It’s one thing to use yourself as an example … it’s another thing to have a 3-D image you can rotate with your finger and enlarge in certain places.”
Not all patients are ready to see those details, though. And that’s where other intangible lessons come in handy for hospitalists, says Steven Peskin, MD, MBA, FACP, executive vice president and chief medical officer of Yardley, Pa.-based MediMedia USA. He agrees there are times when the use of touchscreen technology to educate might enhance the patient encounter. But hospitalists need to use their judgment in deciding which patients can tolerate learning—for example, the exact path a catheterization tube takes on its way north from entry in that patient’s groin.
“Some might be scared to death; others might be reassured,” Dr. Peskin says. “The personalization is still largely in the personal skills, the very-old-school bedside manner.
The power of digital media to pictorially or visually or graphically show somebody something—sure, absolutely, that’s valuable. I wouldn’t equate that with patient-physician communication or healthcare professional communication. I think that still relies more on eye contact, empathy, and listening.”
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.