Doctor smartphone use: distraction or good medicine?

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  • Elizabeth Doyle says:

    Thanks for this, Mr. Taylor. Sadly, expertise and authority seem to be held in a time-trap, yet to make the transition to the present day, where smartphones are so ubiquitous and reliable that the idea of rote recall and memorization is antiquated. I actually wrote a similar piece last week, but from the perspective of a university instructor. I teach philosophy to undergrads and often assign debates. “As I’m outlining my expectations I encourage students to use their devices for the rebuttal portion. It never fails, I always see looks of relief from the majority, just as I hear the keen among them question, almost to themselves, ‘But isn’t that cheating?’ My short answer is “No.” We’re cheating students of learning resources when we expect nothing short of rote recall and memorization. Smartphones enable students to respond to views that they didn’t anticipate and prepare for. Knowing that the information they need is right in front of them, should they get lost or feel pressured, takes a lot of the heat off of them to retain knowledge that they do not need to store, allows for spontaneity, and it also taps into a tremendous learning resource that is always there for them.” There is an obvious parallel with respect to physicians, and other experts.
    (Follow me @Doyle_EA and/or read my blog at


Paul Taylor


Paul Taylor is a health journalist and former Patient Navigation Advisor at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, where he provided advice and answered questions from patients and their families. Paul will continue to write occasional columns for Healthy Debate.

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