Med schools prep students to avoid device distractions

No doubt computers, smartphones and tablets have helped physicians improve access to information and, in turn, care delivery. For patients meeting with technology-armed docs, however, there can be a fine line between such tools being helpful and distracting.

For that reason, medical schools across the nation are beginning to implement courses geared specifically toward making sure physicians don't cross that line, the Associated Press reports. One such program, at Washington, D.C.-based Georgetown University, uses actors to portray patients who ultimately provide feedback on how well or poorly a student integrates technology into their workflow.

One of the students profiled in the article--Gregory Shumer--admitted that while the computer enhanced his abilities from a clinical perspective, connecting with patients while using technology proved to be more difficult.

"It's easier to have a relationship when the computer is not there," Shumer told the AP.

At Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., meanwhile, guidelines have been created expressly to ensure that a physician's focus is primarily with a patient. The guidelines include some seemingly simple instructions, such as "face your patient" and "excuse yourself to check the screen," according to the AP.

John Halamka, CIO at Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, recently voiced his concerns about the distractions mobile technologies can cause saying that while in other settings they might be considered minor, in healthcare they can be "a matter of life and death."

Halamka believes that more education is needed to help physicians with the use of such tools. He also thinks that hospitals need to update their policies to keep up with the mobile habits of their workforce.

"The consumer technology industry is bringing more tech to doctor hands faster than policy can be made," he said, according to a recent article in Kaiser Health News. "How long did it take to pas laws against texting while driving? And how many people die because they were distracted drivers. There was a lag. I think maybe we're at that point in healthcare."

To learn more:
- here's the AP article

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