November 27, 2012

A few shoutouts for productivity

These are some very interesting discoveries I've stumbled upon the recent weeks which I think may be useful to you.

Stereomood is one of many Internet radio stations, providing free, streamed music. What makes Stereomood different is that you can choose the music channel appropriate for your mood. Thus you can listen to ambient background music for paper-work, inspiring drummy tunes for an energetic hour or just dreamy instrumental music while taking a nap. If you suddenly feel like jumping to the "opposite mood" there is a button for that, for example when returning to work after napping!

The mood tags are collaboratively done by the listeners so they are pretty natural and music rightly tagged most of the time.

Everytime you hear a tune that impresses you more than others you can "favorite it" for playing later. For all music there's a link to buy the tune or whole CD if you like the artist.

Finally, there's a smartphone app for both iPhone and Android.

Image from Here is a little gem that caught me by surprise as I didn't realise how easy it has become to translate speech to text now a days. Well, TalkTyper, does that exactly and it does it amazingly well. As you talk to the microphone sentences are converted to text almost instantly and collected in a mini-notepad.

You can select input language and all major languages are provided for and I expect the list to grow quickly as the web is in the background using a Google based speech to speech server. On a technical level, it is a built in Chrome feature (version 11 and above) being decorated with additional tools.

An excellent productivity tool worth knowing about!

Online XPS to PDF converter
Internet Explorer is notoriously stubborn, refusing to implement features users need. Printing a document to PDF file is one such feature, whereas Chrome allows you to just select "Save as PDF" as target printer. Explorer has a similiar feature but uses a Microsoft only technology called XPS instead of PDF. And most institutions force us to use Explorer. Thus, an online XPS to PDF converting tool was very much welcomed in my productivity link/tool collection.

Image from http://www.thegeeksclub.comThis is the web-application of the century and should be topmost in this list but I've mentioned it already a few times. It's the one web-app I use almost everyday and is indespinsible while working with images or photos. It has all of Photoshop's most used features, it's free, it can sync your images with Google Drive or Picasa... its' totally amazing. If you haven't used it, you should now!

Finally,  a few IT tips

I love keyboard shortcuts as they make computer life so much easier - these are the latest I've discovered and definitely worth sharing!

Middle-mouse-clicking a link in your web-browser (Chrome and Firefox at least) will open it in a new tab. Also, middle-clicking an open tab closes it. So lovely!

While doing a Google search, you can anytime start writing again if you want to change your search - just start typing. No need to move mouse pointer to input field!

Impatient while scanning a Youtube video? There's a button for changing playback speed, you can play up to 2x times faster, great for example to quickly browse through a ultrasound tutorial you've seen before. Notice this works only in the HTML5 player, switch here if you're still using Flash.

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!