Dear Diary: Utilizing the modern, mobile journal as an MD outlet


Everybody needs an out.

Stressed and stuffed to the gills? Funnel it out. Bottled-up and seemingly out to sea? Empty the bilge. Bleary-eyed, 20 patients seen, a waiting room brimming with the unexamined as far as the gaze can traverse? Another festering breakdown in need of drainage.

But it’s far easier to say ‘cauterize’ than to actually take the hot brand and give it some skin. In the same vein, to think of professional disengagement or general release can be far simpler than doing it, let alone knowing how it’s done. Certain individuals turn to exercise, others to literature, more still to travel. But for the doctor, time is of the essence and given to the wiles of limit. Thus, an alleviant must be accessible, flexible in the time it demands and understanding of swift disengagement.

This miracle MD ventilation system? The journal, perhaps.

With the rise of social media and the prominence of tablets and smartphones in practices of all sizes, the diary has been re-fashioned for the future and is as trendy as ever. Not only can a journal essentially be shared via the means of Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and the bloggersphere — it’s doubly covert (no need to carry around a separate, bulky notebook to capture a musing) and easily tucked away when business beckons.

Kevin Pho, MD, as an example, has become a social media sensation through his blogging outlet and even though he admits that his life is not simpler because of this journaling habit, it certainly has afforded him bountiful personal and professional rewards.

“Managing a full-time primary care practice and exploring the intersection between medicine, health care, and social media requires a definite commitment,” Pho said in an interview with the Association of American Medical Colleges. “My day starts at 4 am, where I spend a few hours writing both for my blog, as well as mainstream publications like USA Today and CNN.com. Then I start my clinic day and see patients from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The evenings are reserved for my kids and family.

It’s tremendously rewarding to be at the forefront of medicine’s embrace of social media.  One way I use my blog, along with my presence on Twitter and Facebook, is to engage in the health care conversation.  I bring issues that concern doctors, such as the primary care shortage, medical malpractice, physician burnout, and the erosion of the doctor-patient relationship, to the front of the national mindset.

A physician need not be so vocal about their quips either. Numerous note-taking apps are available, from Penultimate to the general notepad that comes with most mobile devices. Utilizing these applications to remember a fleeting experience, quotation or a reaction to an article, colleague or patient can allow for processing later and brief escapism in the moment, on the move.

Psychologists typically trumpet the healing and cognitive properties inherent in journaling and healthcare can’t help but herald the healing and cognitive properties inherent in rising technology. Joining the praises could be worth a shot. And there’s no need to buy more notepaper.