Forty-five years ago, a computer engineer in Boston sent an electronic message between two computers some 10 feet apart. It took another 10 years or so before the electronic mail message was dubbed email—a term now, perhaps, more ubiquitous than any other in the lexicon of modern communications.
Despite the seemingly definitive place email communication holds for rheumatologists—for messages to each other, missives to hospital administrators, instructions to patients and myriad other uses—some people wonder if email is outmoded. In a world of text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Vine, Periscope and Google Talk—not to mention dozens of lesser known services and a seemingly endless string of startups aiming to be the proverbial next big thing—is email old-fashioned or ineffective?
In a word, no.
“Email is pretty much here to stay,” says lupus expert Swamy Venuturupalli, MD, FACR, who leads the ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting subcommittee that focuses on technology innovations and is clinical chief of rheumatology at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “Email is the dominant form of communication at the current time and if email continues to evolve, it will continue to remain relevant and useful to accomplish quick and confidential communication in the medical setting.”
But that doesn’t mean email is the only communications method in a rheumatologist’s toolbox or the best one for every situation. Physicians and communications experts interviewed by The Rheumatologist agree that email has a function and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. However, that function is dependent on trust, urgency, formality and relationships.
“I’m exploring other ways of communicating with teams and colleagues,” says Jonathan Hausmann, MD, a fellow in pediatric and adult rheumatology at Boston Children’s Hospital/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “For instance, I have projects where I collaborate with people at other institutions. We need efficient ways of communicating and sharing documents with each other. Using Slack, we created different channels to address various parts of our projects, including IRB documents, study survey, software improvements, etc.”
Communications consultant A.J. Moore, an associate professor of communication at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J., put it even more bluntly when assuring that email isn’t going anywhere.
“Research shows, and I know I do it myself, the first thing I do in the morning when I pick up my phone is check my email,” he says. “People often check their email before they check the weather, before they check social media. Sure, there are other places to go, there are other ways of communicating. But I still think that email is the center point. It’s the starting line for your communication.”
Physicians & communications experts interviewed by The Rheumatologist agree that email has a function & isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. However, that function is dependent on trust, urgency, formality & relationships.
The urgency that comes with a text message or a direct message on Facebook or Twitter is the flip side of the formality that comes with an email, says Mr. Moore.