A colleague over at Corporate Meetings & Incentives recently wrote about how all the tweeting, posting, podcasting, and Facebooking she has to do these days is giving her the technology blues. I hummed along as I read it—yeah, all this technology is making us crazy. Oh for the good old days when all we did on a phone was talk!
Then a pre-Halloween nor’easter blew through much of the Eastern Seaboard and scattered that line of thinking into oblivion with its cold, wet, powerline-downing winds. Acting as a sort of flu for trees, the storm was hardest on the very old and very young—and ancient oak and sapling alike came down on the wires outside my home office, leaving me in the dark and unGoogled for the first time in recent memory. While the power came back in less than a day, my cable company didn’t seem to care as I shrieked, “but I need to get online now! I’m on deadline!” No, the person on the phone actually yawned as she said they would maybe get to my house by Friday. That would mean four more stranded, Net-less days with just me, the dog, my Mac, and an iPhone that couldn’t do diddly in a house that had for some inexplicable reason become a 3G dead zone.
No #CMEchat on Twitter that Wednesday. No catching up on my blog feeds. No passing of files on the FTP. No Googling words to make sure they’re spelled right (oh, like you don’t do that too?). No going on LinkedIn to ask a burning question to a journalist group I’m a member of. No checking with the CME LinkedIn groups or my favorite blogs to see if there was anything there that could spark an idea for this editor’s note. Not even e-mail to obsessively check and recheck when I needed an excuse to procrastinate productively.
I had been disconnected, and I didn’t like it one bit.
It forced me to acknowledge just how much I depend on the Internet to be my auxiliary brain. And I’m just a digital tourist popping in from Boomer land—I can’t imagine how much worse it is for the “Google docs” who cut their teeth on tweeting and now depend on their iBrains to help them make decisions at the point of care. And we have lots of company: According to a survey by medical education company Pri-Med, 60 percent of primary care physicians use their smartphones to search for clinical information, and almost half use it to download clinical information.
So why is so much of continuing medical education still all about going to a hotel ballroom and lecturing to the seats in seats? Last time I checked, that’s not the part of a person’s anatomy most conducive to learning. As the authors of a recent Pri-Med white paper argue—quite persuasively, I think—our technology addiction is just one more reason the CME community needs to embrace the “open education” model that is collaborative, accessible, possibly even crowd-sourced, and embraces self-directed, just-in-time learning that can happen at a conference, online, and in a practice setting. CME? Yup, there’s an app for that.