Talk, Think, Listen and Type – Skills of the 21st Century Physician

This week’s JAMA has a poignant editorial that describes what skills are needed in today’s and tomorrow’s physicians:

So what communication skills will be required of the fully evolved 21st century physician? The physician will, of course, be fluent in standard clinical language, including ordinary medical terminology and the delicate phrases of care and compassion. The physician will be adept at translating medical jargon into comprehensible lay terms, knowing how to defuse words, such as obese or psychotic, that might cause alarm or hurt feelings. The physician will know how to explain statistical concepts both accurately and intelligibly with the patience and fortitude to answer patients’ questions about all things evidence-based, even the physician’s own competence.

The physician will know the highly technical vocabulary of relevant research agendas well enough to encourage patients to get involved. The physician will also keep up with popular culture, tracking popular direct-to-patient communications and incorporating them into the clinical dialogue. In addition, and most importantly, the physician will have virtuoso data entry and retrieval skills, with an ability to talk, think, listen, and type at the same time rivaling that of court reporters, simultaneous interpreters, and journalists on deadline. The physician will do all of this efficiently and effectively through dozens of clinical encounters a day, each one couched in a slightly different vernacular.

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