Some days I would love to tell everyone, “put your phones away!” I saw my third child in a row in clinic who did not look me in the eye or lower his electronic device. At the same time, I was taking their medical history and typing it into the electronic record. This obviously has become an increasingly common occurrence over the past years. Some parents take their child’s electronic device away from them in an attempt to engage the child in the visit; then a child life specialist comes in to assist, often bringing the child an electronic tablet. At the end of the day, I go home and tell my husband and children not to bring their phones to the dinner table! It’s not just those around me—I, too, am relying more and more on my electronic devices. So how do we manage ourselves and our patients and utilize electronics in a productive way? It has been shown that people who work with “several streams of content do not pay attention, memorize, or manage their tasks as well as those who focus on one thing at a time, resulting in decreased productivity and engagement” (Ophir, Nass, & Wagner, 2009; Rosen & Samuel, 2015, p. 110). According to Rosen and Samuel, “turning off the device is probably not a tenable solution and you will not be able to keep up with the continual in-flow of information, so instead, our goal should be to sort and limit the information you receive and streamline the work of reading, responding and sharing” (p. 112) to decrease our time using the devices. It is imperative that we are present and engaged with our patients and those around us. We need to educate and set a good example with our electronic device usage. At the same time, we need to be savvy enough to use our devices in productive, useful ways. E-mails and social media can be filtered and automated; becoming familiar with newsreader, organization apps, and post schedulers will save you time.
Positive impacts are definitely being made as a result of electronic devices. mHealth (mobile technology health) uses tools and platforms for health care, including research. mHealth is increasing worldwide, including in lower- and middle- income communities where there are fewer fixed Internet systems (World Health Organization, 2011). Through mHealth, communication, research, and education strategies are endless and should be used with patients and families in our practices. The National Institutes of Health has resources to enhance research about mHealth. We need to embrace, own, and control our electronic device usage while creatively connecting with our patients and families.
Ophir E., Nass C., & Wagner A. D. ( 2009). Cognitive control in media multitaskers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
, 106, 15583–15587.
Rosen L., & Samuel A. ( 2015). Managing yourself: Conquering digital distraction. In Harvard Business Review
World Health Organization. ( 2011). mHealth: New horizons for health through mobile technologies. Global Observatory for eHealth series
, 3. Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/44607/1/9789241564250_eng.pdf