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Can Technology Help with Physician Wellness?

Physician wellness – the idea of physicians being taken care of - is not a new concept; however in this new era of medicine, it may mean something different. Is it possible that technology could represent a physician wellness tool? Take for example the idea that a solo physician is able to connect with peers via a dynamic mobile directory on their smartphone. The ability for them to communicate asynchronously is often less intimidating than paging a physician you’ve never met, or directly calling a colleague you know is extremely busy. Besides helping physician colleagues reach each other in a fast, relatively low-tech way, could a mobile communication tool that allows messages to be prioritized actually help doctors connect more than they ever had in the past? A family physician who recently relocated to our area told me this week that the fact that she can send a secure message about a patient to a specialist, then get a quick report back as soon as her patient was seen, has made her feel more connected to her new medical community - even without a face-to-face meeting. Perhaps it is real connection that physicians need today to feel like new technology is not just an imposition.

This brings me back to why we developed DocbookMD in the first place. As a rural family physician, I needed to connect with colleagues across multiple specialties who practice in the surrounding cities. It is fairly daunting to pick up the phone and insist-page a physician you’ve never met, just to learn that your patient doesn’t need to be seen urgently – or worse, that they should have been seen sooner. Can technology make these uncomfortable scenarios easier? In the same way texting your mother may displace a prolonged phone conversation – I think it can! Simply put – anything that helps physicians communicate will help improve patient care, and likely help the physicians feel more supported. By taking the social (and professional) extras out of the conversation, doctors can efficiently deliver facts to each other – which may actually make them feel connected.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association reveals a correlation between physician burnout and time pressures felt with high-functioning electronic medical record systems. What if technological simplicity – while keeping the physician at the center – is the answer?

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