Sunday, December 12, 2010

Drinking from the Virtual Fire-Hose

It is late. I find myself waxing philosophical this evening.  Like you, I am busy.  I am always looking for a more efficient method of doing menial tasks. For example, I have an electronic medical record - it does the repetitive writing for me with each visit.  I also have computerized transcription software that increases my input speed from 120 wpm to over 600 words per minute (for some reason I am typing this though, hmm?)  I use one of my medical assistants in the exam room for me to take transcription as well.  All of these things help me do the things I want to do and was trained to do more effectively.
However, I'm still trying to find the most efficient method of sorting through the fire-hose flow of news, information and medical information at my fingertips every day.  What is the status on South Korea's attack? Are our congressmen doing anything about the budget deficit? Did the Medicare pay cut get fixed and will this affect my ability to see those patients? Is there more to the bureaucratic monstrosity I need to be aware of this week?  Does the newest medication just out change our treatment of atrial fibrillation?  Is there drug resistance to this strain of staph. aureus in my office this week? How do you efficiently sort through the fodder, read the important information, apply it, and still have time to see your patients and be home before the dinner is cold and the kids are in bed?
I'm a solo practitioner.  Between seeing the patient's, reviewing their labs & diagnostics, follow up messages, managing the staff, paying the bills and ensuring that payroll is covered, adding an additional ball to the juggling seems ominous.  
I have been impressed by Bryan Vartabedian, MD (, Dr. Rob (, Kevin Pho, MD (, and Wendy Sue Swanson, MD (Seattlemamadoc). These are the trailblazers and some how seem to be able to drink from the fire-hose and not get that flapping lip, water in your lungs, spewing out your nose sensation.  I have to give them credit.  As I have read their blogs and seen their tweeds, I have gleaned a few bits of insight.  Thanks. 
But, I got tired of trying to swallow it all one week and just ignored it all. I turned off Twitter, Facebook and ignored my e-mail . . . and it caught up with me. I missed some major events that were important to me that week. I was disappointed with myself.  Disappointed with the system. Just disappointed. 
I reviewed the previous few weeks.  What was wrong?  
I forgot about the basics.  I realized that any good sports team or athlete when confronted with poor performance goes back to the basics.  The fundamentals. The grounding principles. 
The problem I see with the information fire-hose is that in trying to drink, we often forget how to breath and swallow when our face is in the water. We are now involved in virtual interactions and global interrelations. They are no longer preplanned and thought out. They are no longer face-to-face.  Virtual stage fright occurs and we forget the basics. So, many just decide the fire-hose isn't for them. 
So, in the spirit of returning to the basics, I am reminded of Luke Skywalker's basic training under Master Yoda.  Small though he was, big on insight were the few lines he captivated me with as a young boy.
"Do or do not . . . there is no try!"
I realize that I need to take these one bite at a time.  Just the effort of getting of the couch, getting out of the chair, reading one article, finishing one book, writing a few of my thoughts has helped. Remember why you go to work.  Remember why you see each patient.  Remember why you enjoy these interactions so much.  Search for those one or two things each day that will make it easier to go to work, to see each patient, and to enhance your personal interactions with those you render care to.
"Named must your fear be before banish it you can."
What is to be gained from the information superhighway and what are the risks of driving on it?  The answer to both questions is "Time". Drinking from the fire-hose will can help you improve your efficiency, but, it can also suck up too much of your precious time. I have found that if I focus the time I am on the information superhighway and I set a specific reason or goal to accomplish by being there, I find it very rewarding. 
"Always in motion is the future."
The only thing constant in life is change.  That's what is so fascinating about our access to information in this age. That's why it is so anxiety provoking as well.  Many are unnerved by seeing the speed around us that the world moves.  Although, I don't think that the world really sped up, I think that we just see more of it and need to realize that our consistency will be like a ship on moving water. 
"Always two there are, no more no less: a master and an apprentice."
There will always be a teacher.  There will always be one who has mastered the art.  From them we can learn, apply and improve our own capacities. For those who have mastered the art, I am grateful. The master teaches and emphasizes mastery of the basics.  
So, if you have mastered drinking from the fire-hose, please pass it on.

No comments: