Monday, 25 Mar 2019

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Reboot Your Digital Self: Part One

During a recent visit to a rheumatology teaching program, I asked the audience, “Who here owns their own domain name” (i.e.," Not surprisingly, all the trainees raised their hands, while all the attendings looked about, not comprehending the question or why they were not in on the topic of “domain names”. (For the disconnected few – a domain name is the URL address [where you type in “internet address”] for people, businesses or organizations like,

Clearly, different generations of physicians are learning differently. If you hadn’t noticed, communication and learning has changed dramatically in the last two decades. Communication and education have become immediate, responsive, and accessible. If you’re a very ‘connected’ person, then you have a digital self.

This article is written as a check-up to your digital self and a wake-up call to those of you who are disconnected lazily or willfully. This is written for the journal-subscribing, big textbook toting physicians whose primary education is acquired at the medical library, weekly medical conferences or grandiose annual conventions.

In many ways I admire the disconnected but active learner as described above. But while your old, analogue, wind-up self may be quite comfortable, confident and informed, things have changed considerably since that crazy Macintosh commercial and televisions morphed from 32-inch, 3D big boxes into these wall occupying, big flat LED “smart” screens. Smart (screens, phones, physicians, etc.) is synonymous with going full digital.

At issue is whether your old school excursions into education could be better, more efficient by immersing yourself more so in the digital world. Gripe if you may about those digital, Gen-X or millennial punks, we are all deep in binary BS.

The good news is that you’ve already adapted to a digital world. You’ve probably graduated from the blackberry minor leagues and joined the mainstream smart phone world. You’re tied to email, have multiple email accounts and struggle to juggle your many passwords (based on your dog’s name and incrementally changing numbers). Heck, you’re already engaged in digital learning through RheumNow, the ACR, online training for your job and online bill pay (automated or not).

But there’s still a few more steps you need to take to be connected and manage and master the technology in your professional life.

Opportunity is pinging you.

Before you bail out on this blog, you should recognize the consequences of not being digital:

  • Communication. You won’t be able to communicate, keep up with or comprehend the many facets of life and medicine run by those way more digital than you. And not just the younger generations. It’s all those people who need to learn from you – patients, peers, trainees or your community. The connected society is calling you. Research shows that over 70% of the elderly (65-75 yrs.) are plugged in to the internet!
  • Left Behind. Sadly, your patients, family and peers will jet past you like you’re driving a battery driven golf-cart. They’ll be texting, googling and snap-chatting while you’re on the porch talking about your Buick and the “good ole slide-rule days”.
  • Your Reputation. The internet is ripe with information about you – who and where you are, what you’ve done, said or attested to, and even more worrisome, what patients or others have said about you. By being disengaged, you have no control over any incorrect or malicious content or activity that bears your name. Moreover, you won’t know about it until it’s too late and your 75 year old PMR patient informs you that “you may want to do something about what they are saying about you “on the googlenet”.
  • An Identity Hijack. Read tomorrow about how “Gustav” hijacked your name, reputation and earnings on the internet.
  • Learning. You’ll be passing on a whole new world of learning, education and influence that allows you to be connected to the exponential growth of information in medicine.

What are the benefits of having a better “digital self”? Aside from having an avatar that is way better looking than you, upgrading or expanding your digital self is about improving communication and learning. You can be one person with a reach extending to hundreds or thousands of people or patients. It’s your opportunity to capitalize on technology that affects your professional life.

Tomorrow, I'll discuss how to accomplish the most important digital must-do’s:

  1. Own your name and identity on the internet.
  2. Curate and automatically gather journal articles or news of importance to you.
  3. Excel at email (your primary digital activity and communication tool).
  4. Find the outlet that spreads your word, influence, and teachings.

In the meantime, go Google yourself, and see what you find.


The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose related to this subject
Dr. Cush is the Director of Clinical Rheumatology at the Baylor Research Institute and a Professor of Medicine and Rheumatology at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, TX. He a Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.
Dr. Cush is the Executive Editor of and also Co-Edits the online textbook 
Dr. Cush's research and interests include novel drug development, rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritis, drug safety, pregnancy and Still's disease/autoinflammatory syndromes. He has published over 140 articles and 2 books in rheumatology.
He can be followed on twitter: @RheumNow.

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