JAMA: It’s Official – there’s tension between older and younger physicians

I was alerted to this editorial by Susannah Fox’s post about it on e-patients.net, and I really liked that this topic (generational issues) is getting coverage in the medical literature:

JAMA — Web Searching for Information About Physicians, July 9, 2008, Gorrindo and Groves 300 (2): 213

The medical community is experiencing the same GenX, GenY, Baby Boomer challenge that everyone else is. I’ve written about it on this blog (See these posts, and these posts) quite a bit, as it took me awhile in my own professional work to realize what was going on – many of the discussions I was having seemed to be themed to the generation of the person I was talking to rather than the specific person. This turned out to be really helpful in creating understanding and collaboration.

I think we need each other, and if anything, my discovery (glass half-full) is that many baby boomers have the desire and ability to have their creativity unleashed. GenX-Y can and will help with that by stimulating the conversation (See my most recent read for a great example). I enjoy being sandwich guy (Gen X), it’s kind of like being a family physician, coordinating with all of the other medical and surgical specialists, all of whom add value to everything I do and (hopefully) vice versa.

Acknowledging the tension, and creating some more

I’m glad to see the authors call out that the tension exists, at the same time they create the tension they speak of in their advice, which is centered around the concept of being “aggressive” about “protecting” the physician:

Talking to Patients About How They Are Using the Internet. If a physician suspects that an Internet-savvy patient is engaged in seeking personal information about him or her, we recommend that the physician talk with the patient about the garnered information. This is particularly relevant when treating young adults or adolescents who commonly use the Internet. Physicians should clearly inform patients that the Internet is not a substitute for face-to-face conversation.

It’s not? Patients need to be talked to? We need to clearly inform them about how to use the Internet?

There’s a very cool alternative paradigm where we protect the patient, by clearly informing them about everything we are doing for and to them, and listen to them about how they use the Internet, so we can use it with them. It’s completely possible. The best part is that I’ve seen many a baby boomer embrace it. The future’s bright for our profession and those we serve….

Ted Eytan, MD