November 14, 2012

Five IT skills every doctor should learn and master

IT is not a very sexy term for doctors' ears despite having potential to boost productivity and clinical skills. I find it hard to convince my colleagues that IT could be one the hopes for battling rising costs and burden of modern healthcare. Productivity and effective work is the one most important factor today - a doctor who is highly educated and trained is a much too valuable resource to be seen wasting time fighting a computer or software. Computers are everywhere today and can't be dodged - we are practising desktop medicine instead of bedside medicine. Same goes for the information tsunami, you have to ride it instead of being drowned in it. So I would like to share with you what IT skills I think every doctor should learn and master.

1. Touch type writing

Doc wrote a coffe and drank some emailDoctors write text all day long and no single skill is as underestimated as writing fast, many doctors picking the keyboard with one finger for same typing speed as Stephen Hawking.
Words per minute:
Stephen Hawking 15
Slow writer 20
2-3 days training 60
Professional writer 90
Reading aloud 150
World record 216
Training for 2-3 days will give you 300% gain in writing speed - such a number in the NNT world would normally be a breakthrough article in the medical journals!

2. Google Docs (Drive)

A doctor's office does not need to be like this today! I have surrendered to my brain and admit that however I try I will not be able to remember everything. My brain is a powerful processor of information but for organizing and storing it I need an online, easily accessible notebook. Google Docs is exactly that and has become an indispensable tool in daily clinical work. Everything I have learned the years - tips, links, references, quotes, statistics - I have noted in a well organized collection of text and images for easy retrieval bedside or at computer.

Besides being a huge personal notebook, Google Docs will forever change the use you approach information and data - ultimately leading to the 'mobile, paperless office', essential for organizing and accessing your work from wherever you are.

# A vodcast/post about Google Docs in clinical practice is just around the corner - stay tuned! #

3. Social media

Social media for doctors is essentially
1) Great educational material coming online (and free) through blogs and related technologies.
2) Communications platforms (Twitter, Google+ etc) for expanding your contact network - where your colleagues sharing their most valuable learning points and lessons.

Learning to use social media is not about any one technology, like starting Twitter, it is a new lifestyle. It may not be for all but for those who master it I can promise doors opening to a completely new world of e-learning, yielding clinical skills not possible before. Almost every day I find my self implementing something learned from my social media network to patient care. Learning ultrasound would have been impossible for me without social media as it has provided me with teaching material to support me.

4. The web browser

Doc wrote a coffe and drank some email Software installed locally on your hard drive is becoming a thing of the past as data cloud and web-applications take over. The heart of this revolution is the web browser and it is the one software you really have to know inside and out. Tabbed browsing, using the Omnibar (for Chrome), knowing the keyboard shortcuts, working with text (special copy & paste functions), synchronized preferences etc... Mastering these will give you maximum performance while doing your work. And for a busy doctor, productivity is everything!

5. Genuine interest!

Just as the best doctors are those who are genuinely interested and active in their field - the same goes for IT skills. Strive to always become better and have open eyes for improvements, acknowledge that your way of doing things today may not be the most efficient one. Most of your daily tasks involve IT in one way or another and you will find lots of colleagues, especially younger ones who're born with IT at their hands, who are willing to teach you and help you.

An everyday example of IT in use!

Finally, an example from work - a serbian patient who repeatedly came to the ED with mostly non-compliance based problems because he didn't understand his medication list. Problem solved with a simple IT tool, Google Translate!
Being a tech competent physician is key to productivity and efficiency at work, a win:win situation for you and your patients. In the menu above you will find a list of some 10+ posts about technology, IT and social media for doctors. I highly encourage you to check it out!