Monday, September 3, 2012

Collapsing the Degrees of Separation

Digital Pen-Pals

"Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel.." ~Hamlet

Adopting the internet carries a reward unlike any other. It brings people into your life that you would have never met nor would you ever have the chance of meeting. A surprising pause in this reflection bleeds into your thought process, just then, “Huh really?” followed by “I never thought of that before.” And neither have the ones who have not intrigued themselves with the idea of forging this connection.

The ancient oak of reason spreads its roots into the bedrock of communication; it grows loftier in the air while its roots slide and anchor onto more rocks for greater support. It is in the art of communication through which humans find comfort and connection.

Business, Marketing and Advertising lend themselves readily to any format to extend reach. If I can get to your eyeballs and through them into your mind, well then, I’ve got you for that moment. The connection is made through words and it is akin to “You had me at hello!” How so? And is it all about eyeballs and sales?

An interesting question at first glance. No! there is more to the "need for this speed" of communication. One makes “digital pen-pals.” Remember in the old days when you sat down and wrote in scripted format, a letter to another living in far away land, expressing and describing what was around you and what was happening to you, sharing stories embellished with adjectives? Yup I do! The letter was a veritable postcard of your life and your imagined life. Upon receiving a reply and filled with equal measure of the same, you imagined the other side in daylight and in moonlight, through your own rose-colored glasses of how the trees glistened in the sun and how the moon colored the moisture soaked flowers in its silvery embrace. Oh yes, you did, because, I remember sending those letters to you and receiving them from you.

The anticipation was always so electric. The 6-degrees of separation had been rooted firmly through that contact. The landmasses had congealed back into the Pangaea of existence.

But now we are collapsing that 6-degrees into even smaller-degrees. We have the Internet.

What about Medicine in the age of the Internet, you might ask?

Medicine lives on a loftier plane. It does, I know. The pace is furious, the time is short, the distractions are plenty and the meaning of each word is incalculable. In each wink a life is saved and in every other, one is lost. Why then should the doctor consider this medium for interaction? Is it another distraction and a waste of time?

Medicine has some implanted fears. These fears are the regulatory bias of seeming control and yet so many loopholes exist to allow communication to happen between unknown “Business Partners” that the only person whose life, liberty and profession is jeopardized by the turn of the screw, is the physician. You know of course the grand design of the HIPAA law. So then why should the doctor use the Internet for communication?

Communicating with patients directly is a wonderful ancient art of healing. Eye to eye, hand on shoulder, heart to heart. But sometimes in the dead of despair a word or two help. A genuine word of comfort gives solace to the tortured soul. However using digital words that can seep into the “clouds” of unencrypted or even encrypted data by collapsing this degree of separation may initiate the juggernaut crying, “felon,” “miscreant,” and all such relevant forms of vilification against the physician. How best not to traverse that minefield?

There is a way. Write and educate.

Doctors can disseminate information via the digital word, the video format and all sorts of moving art available in the digital world. There are several very intelligent and prolific writers in the field like @Jordangrumet, @DoctorWes, @SkepticalScalpel, @Doctor_V of 33 Charts @GregSmithMD @drjohnm and @hjluks amongst other notables. On the patient advocate side there are other remarkable communicators like @jodyms @jackiefox12 @BCsisterhood that come to mind. These and others like them communicate but do not make it the morphine of distraction! 

So let us collapse the degrees of separation, write and enlighten each other, express our thoughts, understand the other’s, interpret through the lens of our own values, see the world through naked eyes and learn from each other, all without identifying specifics of our maladies or of our life and person. It is after all not about the singular person, it is about enriching life!

Yes doctors as well as patients can both benefit from this digital revolution. No, it is not earth-shattering, it is not the greatest of all things for humanity, it is just two minds communicating via a new format. And the more that find each other in this vast jungle of a 7-billion-humanity, life becomes intelligent, innovative thoughts seize reflective moments and the world transforms.

Remember the jingle: “Reach out and touch someone?”

"To mingle friendship far is mingling bloods" ~ Leontis (A Winter's Tale)

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