I find it interesting how we are so focused on moving everything to being electronic or digital, and how this is viewed as being progressive. For some things I think this is true, that moving to digital formats offers many advantages. In other cases, I don’t. This sentiment will be amusing to those that know me, as I am almost completely paperless, both at home and at work. I love technology, but, on the other hand, I also love writing with a fountain pen. I find that I think differently, and I become more creative when I do. The feel of writing with ink provides both tactile and image feedback that I enjoy. That being said, I am writing this article on the computer, as I can develop my thoughts more quickly, now that I have identified what it is that I want to talk about.
What can we achieve through direct conversations that we can’t achieve through writing? Gifted writers are able to communicate the richness of their thoughts into words effectively. They have large vocabularies and an impressive eloquence. They are artists who have the ability to paint complex, rich and deep images with their words. On the other end of the spectrum are the texters and Twitter folks who abbreviate and truncate the language into short utterances like “RU OK?” Unfortunately, the societal norm for communications is short bursts, rather than eloquent exchanges.
The analogue interface of a conversation establishes a trust and a relationship that cannot be achieved with digital grunts. We find comfort in the shades of gray, rather than with stark binary contrasts. Professional, clinical and personal relationships are built on trust and quality communications. We need to take the time to craft e-mails and even handwritten notes that are meaningful.
While texts and emails have their place, they should never replace phone or face to face conversations when dealing with sensitive or important issues. We need to connect with each other in order to capture the essence of our communication. Have you ever read an e-mail or text and taken it the wrong way? I sure have. And I’m sure that there have been times when e-mails or texts that I have written were misinterpreted. But it is so much easier for us to send a quick note, rather than making time to meet or talk with someone in real time. In our clinical practice, we need to remember this too.
While it may be more convenient, and sometimes essential to communicate with our patients via e-mail, it may be better to just talk to them. Handing a patient counseling sheet on a drug isn’t the same as having a conversation with them about their prescriptions. Think about it. Implement changes prn.