Expert’s Corner: Medical education—Is there an app for that?

By Jim Fessenden

UMass Medical School Communications

October 11, 2012

pugnaire-micheleWith the proliferation of digital technology available in clinical settings to help doctors access patient and clinical information, some critics are questioning whether a new generation of physicians may be spending too much time connecting with their iPads instead of their patients, reports the New York Times in “Redefining Medicine with Apps and iPads.’’

That simply should not happen, says UMass Medical School Senior Associate Dean for Educational Affairs Michele P. Pugnaire, MD, who says the emphasis at UMMS is on the patient-provider relationship.

“There is no denying that technology brings tremendous potential to advancing the quality of care that we provide for patients; from just-in-time access to current medical guidelines to instant retrieval of important information in patients’ medical records,” said Dr. Pugnaire, asked by UMassMedNow to respond to the New York Times piece. “But as the devices and information continue to become an integral part of quality patient care, physicians should heed Dr. Rajkomar’s warning of knowing ‘when the computer needs to be set aside.’”

So when is the right time to look at the patient and not at the screen and how do we teach these skills to students, as future physicians?

“The challenge for us is not to redefine medicine, but rather to reinforce the patient centeredness that we know is essential in the patient-physician relationship. Patient centeredness is the foundational principle of our educational program at UMass Medical School. As teachers and role models for our students, reinforcing the foundational values of patient-centered care will best prepare our students for setting the computer aside, when it is right time.”