How do you like to be contacted? How do you contact someone else when you need to speak with them or pass along information that you think they need to have?
We live in an information age, and we have a plethora of choices when it comes to connecting with others. We can write letters. (Remember those?) We can send postcards from the edge. We can still send telegrams. Telegrams! (STOP) We can still fax documents.
We can use instant messaging, direct messaging, email or texting.
We can FaceTime or Skype.
As a doctor in the mental health field, I have mixed feelings about all these direct messages, texts, emails and IMs. I love my technology, God knows I do, and I am one of us who uses my tech toys and tools hundreds of times each day. I keep up with family and friends, write posts to my blog, look at pictures, check the weather, read books, listen to podcasts and music, and watch videos.
When it comes to my patients, however, I can see myself holding on to the more traditional forms of communication. Why the schism?
With tech talk, I can hear (or see) what you say, but now how you say it. Let’s face it, psychiatry is a specialty of nuances. Your body language, tone of voice and even your breathing pattern can tell me a lot about what’s going on with you when you tell me that story or ask me that question.
Face to face time tends to be equated with caring. Which had you rather hear when you are really ill: “Come on in this afternoon and we’ll see you”, or “I’ll have someone get back with you by phone before the end of the day”?
Rapid fire exchanges tend to lead to rapid fire decisions, not always the best thing. If I am being pressured by a nurse to answer an email she sent me yesterday about a medication change for a patient, I might not research my options as thoroughly as I otherwise might have. The nurse and the patient are focused on the rapidity of my response, not necessarily its content.
Missed, or mixed, messages, might never be seen, or seen too late. The worst case scenario, of course, would be an email or text or other communication about suicidal ideation that gets misfiled, deleted or parked for days without being seen. The patient might be reaching out for all the right reasons but never be heard. The results could obviously be disastrous.
Privacy concerns are in the news. I mean, really. Who sees what you send? Who is in the loop? Who needs to know?
It’s a new world with instant access, rapid fire conversations and the exchange of billions of thoughts every day.
What do you think about modern day methods of communication and health care?