Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Web Secret #234: Connecting to Millenials

A couple of months ago, the New York Times devoted its entire Science News section to look at some of the many ways technology is changing the world of medicine.

My next few blog posts will be devoted to a further analysis of some of the articles in that section.

As I write this, many of my psychotherapy and treatment facility colleagues are anxiously sitting on the fence, wondering if they should, and how they should, leap into the digital age. The easiest way to get inspired, is to read how another professional effectively accomplished this.

In "Texting the Teenage Patient," reporter Jan Hoffman describes how one pediatrician harnesses technology to effectively communicate with the adolescents in her practice. Among other techniques, she:

Texts: "Better morning with this medication?" or "Everything is great, go ahead with the plan we discussed. Please reply so I know you received." On the morning of college entrance exams, a teenager who suffers from a roiling stomach reads her texted greeting: "Prepared. Focused. Calm. Your body is healthy and well. Good luck today."

Uses a whiteboard which hangs in her exam room, with hyperlinks and QR codes to sites with teenager-friendly material on sexuality, alcohol and drugs. The teenagers can photograph the board with their phones, storing the information to peruse in private.

Rather than leave teenagers unguided about dicey health matters, she continues sending them links to appropriate Web sites. As she explains in the article, "I do as much as I can to get it on their phones, because that is what they live and die for." She gets parents' permission, because she doesn't want them checking a child's phone and chancing upon sites about, say, sexually transmitted diseases.

In this model of intervention, the practitioner no longer sees the Internet as the enemy, but rather as technology to be turned into an advantage.

"The payoff is a better-informed teenager who finds social media a faster and less embarrassing means to have questions asked and answered."

My opinion is that as millenials enter their twenties and beyond, they will demand a kind of communication and responsiveness that can only be achieved through technology. At that point, clinicians and facilities who do not engage in digital media may find it difficult to hold on to these 21st century patients.

You have been warned.

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