Dealing with a digital life

A recent distasteful picture of a selfie during a digital vaginal examination has exposed the perils and treachery of social media. Calling for doctors not to partake of this media is certainly not the answer as well. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram etc are likely to stay with us for many decades to come.

The question is how do we handle this new found freedom of expression where you could ‘verbalise’ anything just by a click of the mouse. How do we manage or prevent that spur of the moment angst, often regretting later? Remember what you leave digitally is forever imprinted in the Internet, even if you attempted to delete it.

A few guides and rules to live by.

1. Never post anonymously. If you are to post anything online, the very least you could do is to own up to those comments. In this way, one might think first before putting up a post or comment.

2. Maximize the function of groupings and security settings in your social media. Colleagues may need to be separated with family members or for some, patients. Hence, postings can be directed to only a certain group and won’t be blasted out. Social media does not necessarily need to be an open forum, unless we allow them to be publicly posted.

3. Pretend that the conversations are happening face to face. Do realize that we can no longer hide behind the screen. Digital conversations are real, well most of the time, unless you are dealing with computer robots!

4. Never friend someone who does not even dare to post his photo or details online, unless you know them personally. It usually signifies that he/she is unwilling to put their reputation on the line and is not ready for the digital realm.

5. Share your digital ID with your real life contacts. That’s you after all, be proud of it.

6. Practice common sense. This can’t really be taught. Exercise this everytime you go online. In fact, exercise this with your every breath!

Social media is here to stay. Deal with it!

What should IT be in healthcare?

The embrace of digital technology is slow in the healthcare industry. Comparatively, industries like aviation and banking have long maximized the benefits of digitisation. This has allowed us to manage our banking accounts or our flight bookings, just with a click of the mouse. This ‘vision’ can be adopted in healthcare, however, it is not as simple.

I have long believed that in order for the future medical practice to fully utilize digital technology, medical education needs to be overhauled. The conventional way of teaching medicine has to change. The adage of “Do not fix what is not broken” should no longer be adhered to, if we are to move quickly forward.

Just the other day, I was introduced to 3D children’s books. I was amazed at the app which brings a 2D image to life, much to the amazement of children and adults alike. Why can’t we use this in medical education? There have been early adopters in some medical schools but we need all medical schools to follow suit if we are to ensure that the entire healthcare industry is on the same page.

IT is not just putting some digital text online. It is about maximizing the power of digitization in making information interactive, meaningful and engaging. This will make learning more efficient, yet fun. Gone should be the days when we learn anatomy from lengthy paragraphs and grainy images, often relying on our powers of imagination to reconstruct the passage. Imagine learning biochemistry using digital animation. I would probably remember more than I can now!

IT should be innovative, intuitive, adaptive and progressive. It should assist, not hinder the daily processes. The future is bright, and the investments in that future starts today.

Mainstream vs alternative Medicine

It is a tug of war. Each blaming the other of breaching ethical standards and uncouth practices of delivering healthcare. 

Often times, mainstream medicine can’t give patients the news they would like to hear. Visiting alternative practitioners who then shower them with phrases and words like “cure”, “no side effects” and “natural”, makes this avenue an ‘obvious’ and preferred choice. 

Preying on insecurities of patients is wrong based on common sense. However, regulation of alternative practitioners is poor. The Government’s attempt to regulate this industry is feeble. Hence, many alternative practitioners continue to spew half truth and unscientific claims in order to tempt vulnerable patients with their purportedly superior treatment.

However, discounting alternative practitioners and engaging in an all out war, is probably not the best strategy either. Being in Asia, it would be ideal if we can complement each other. Respecting the roles that we can play, ultimately with the aim of making patients better. Both practitioners will then be held responsible for the health of the patients they manage.

The courts must then recognize and hold all practitioners of health liable should a medicolegal case arise. Alternative practitioners should be no different. After all, they should and are responsible for what they claim that they can do.

Similarly, authorities must impose the same standards for mainstream and alternative medical practitioners. If both are to see each other as equal, then there must be an equality in terms of standards of practice.

The Government cannot promote alternative medicine without a proper framework in place. It is after all about protecting the interests of the population.

The heart of the IT dilemma in Medicine

Healthcare is an area which is slow to adopt digital technology in its everyday tasks. Comparatively, areas like banking and the airline industry have long adopted digitisation and a cloud environment in its infrastructure. One may ask why?

The answer is fairly simple if you think about it. Medical education.

Medical education is stuck in a twilight zone, where teaching methods have hardly budged over the decades. Believing the saying that “you do not fix what is not broken” or “That’s how I’ve learnt it!’ is prevalent in the medical fraternity. Therefore, trying to infuse new technologies in the hospitals today are met with firm resistance. Doctors are just not trained to be comfortable using a computer in patient-doctor interactions. They are not trained to use e-prescription in their medical schools. In fact, pen and paper continues to rule in most medical schools.

Even primary students are being exposed to new classroom technologies using apps and digitization to its fullest potential to enhance learning. This mantra needs to be adopted by medical schools if we are to achieve the potential of digital technologies in healthcare.

Submerging medical students in an environment which utilizes IT will only enhance its use in their future medical careers. In the same vein, hospitals have to plan ahead and be wary of the changing times in healthcare. Patient centric approaches and preventive medicine will be prominent in the coming decade and thus formulating and adopting technologies that assist this will only be wise.