Ten Cool Things About Using Technology

November 1, 2013
Tom Giannulli, MD, MS

Part of practicing modern medicine is being comfortable with new technology. Here are 10 ways technology can help you be a better doctor.

I became a doctor for the same reason many physicians choose this career - I wanted to help people. I hoped to use my skills and intelligence to make a difference. But I also became a software engineer and EHR designer because I think that technology is cool. Don't get me wrong, I think designing a great EHR helps people too, but I love all the amazing things that technology has enabled us to do.

The world has changed so dramatically in the past 20 years as a result of technology, and in particular, so has healthcare. Whatever concerns you have about using technology in your practice, you can't deny it has changed our industry for the better. Think about robotic surgery and 64-slice CTs. We can consult face to face with someone across the country and use telemedicine to serve patients in remote locations. Without even talking about practice management, billing, and EHR software, there are hundreds of ways technology has improved healthcare.

Not only is technology allowing us to do amazing things, it makes us look cool to our patients. If you think they don't notice, let me share some insights from a recent survey of about 200 consumers conducted by Kareo:

• 60 percent of respondents said it was extremely important to them that their doctor use technology as part of their job.

• 60 percent also said use of technology increased their confidence in the doctor.

• 49 percent said that if their doctor came into the exam room with an iPad, they would think that doc was "cool and on top of things."

•55 percent said use of computer technology improves the care given.

• 90 percent said they would choose a doc who uses technology in the exam room, over one who doesn't.

I use an iPad in my practice and my patients ask about it all the time. They want to know what I can do with it, if I like it, and if I would recommend the iPad for them to manage their health and wellness. I believe that my patients perceive my use of technology as a benefit to their health and wellness.

Beyond accessing the EHR the use of mobile technology in your practice can yield several benefits:

1. Modern medicine practiced here! Demonstrate that your practice is not working in the Stone Age (or worse yet, the paper age). The clinical dashboard or face sheet provided by many EHRs allows you to have intimate knowledge of the patient and their history with a short glance over the screen. This may be why so many patients believe that technology in the exam room improves care.

2. Better time management. Task managers and calendars let you manage your schedule and things to do easily so you can focus on other stuff - both at work and in your free time.

3. On-the-go entertainment. Angry birds - enough said.

4. Tap and swipe replaces typing and writing. Cut down on repetitive stress injuries with simple tap and swipe on tablets and mobile devices.

5. Teachable moments. Technology is creating more opportunities to engage patients and offer teachable moments. I call this "heads up" medicine, which is just a way of saying that you can use intuitive devices that allow you to document care and look the patient in the eye while also letting them see what you are doing. You can show them diagnostic images, graph trends in their health, share patient education, and much more.

6. Anytime, anywhere access. I mean to you not for you! This can be a plus and a minus but smartphones and tablets make it possible for your staff and patients to reach you in a way that just wasn't possible decades ago.

7. Save some trees. Eliminating paper in your practice and in your life saves trees so we can all breathe a little better.

8. Cool apps for you and your patients. According to Medscape, there are over 40,000 health, fitness, and medical apps out there from reference resources to BMI calculators. I guarantee there are some that you could use to improve the way you practice medicine and the way your patients manage their wellness.

9. New care guidelines It used to take about seven to 10 years to disseminate new best practices for assessments and treatments. Now we find out about cutting edge research when it happens.

10. Nifty ring tones. Don't lie. Who doesn't like a little Star Wars theme music?

If you have been hesitant to embrace new technologies in your practice, perhaps a good place to start is in your everyday life. Try a smartphone or tablet. Enjoy some of the opportunities to connect with friends, family, and peers. Take advantage of all the entertainment options from diverting games to watching a favorite show during your commute (on the train not driving in your car). Start checking out some apps for yourself or for your patients. Start to discover all the cool things technology can do, and as you get more comfortable, maybe the next step will be using the latest technology in your practice to document care and engage your patients.