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The generation gap in physician digital communications

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | March 07, 2018
Health IT
From the March 2018 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

"So one of the things I'm big on is sharing the way I design my in-room experience with patients,” he said. “I'm very deliberate in my structure. I take the first 10 minutes or so collecting data and that's where I type. Then, I pull away from the computer and have the face-to-face with the patient. I'm very conscious of how I interact to minimize the impact of screen time."

Vartabedian believes the same approach needs to be part of med school training. While there are documentation regulations, physicians have far more agency than they're given credit for.

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"We see all this technology as being very deterministic when, in fact, I've designed my experience to collect the information I need and then spend time with the family."

Speaking of the family, that's an evolution that's not talked about enough in Vartabedian's estimation.

"As a pediatrician, I often deal with two generations in the exam room, a grandmother and mother. What's really interesting is that millennial mothers are often comfortable not making eye contact, but I've seen many instances where grandparents clearly need eye contact, so when I'm in the exam room, I find myself adapting based on the generational needs of the patient."

He believes that the rise of machine learning and the next generation of AI have the potential to not only improve health care, but they may help doctors who want to avoid screen time. Smart machines, he predicts, have the potential to help physicians do the things they do best – spend more time with patients.

"I think we'll see the emergence of machine learning that can take apart a conversation and help construct basic notes and records."

His prescription for the younger generation is to stay cognizant of the need to create human connections between physician and patient. But being techno optimistic, he believes physicians can be active participants who can innovate technology and shape its appropriate use after it's released into the clinical space.

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