“Thinned-out interactions made empathy harder to access.” News: Scientific American

Scientific American, article by Jamil Zaki


I’ve been saying this for awhile. Important communications are best had in-person. Meetings 1:1, meetings with groups IN PERSON. What percent of emotional communications occur through BODY LANGUAGE versus TONE OF VOICE versus THE ACTUAL WORDS?

  • Body Language: 50%
  • Tone of Voice: 40%
  • Actual Words: 10%

Sure, you can dispute the evidence, as some have, but I find the ratio to be about right. In my medical practice, and also in our Informatics work with the Electronic Health Record, that if we consider in-person conversations the gold standard, that telephone conversations (where the body language disappears) are a risky way to have an effective conversation and to diagnose the patient (leaving aside the inability to do a physical exam).

Worse yet, having patients use MyChart, or at UCHealth “My Health Connection” online patient portal, drives use to communicate using ACTUAL WORDS, without the benefit of Tone of Voice or of Body Language. And, as you can see from the percentages above, this allows much greater opportunity for misunderstanding. For example, can you imagine how the following statement might be misunderstood?

I’m sorry that your father passed away.

I’m “sorry” that your father passed away.

I’m sorry that YOUR father passed away.

I’M SORRY that your father passed away.

Tone of voice and body language USED TO BE how we communicated such difficult emotion. Now, we are only left with words. And, if we are NOT SKILLED with the wordcraft (as many of us are not, were never trained, some of us can’t even really manage a keyboard effectively), what chance do we have of being understood?

CMIO’s take? I love the quote above, will say it again.

Thinned out interactions make empathy harder to access.

Jamil Zaki

It is so true. What am I going to do about this? What are YOU going to do about this?

Improving Wellness via EHR Optimization Sprints and High Performing Teams. WellDOM speaker series with Amber Sieja and Katie Morrison

It is always a pleasure to stand up and discuss our Informatics work in public forum. We always strive to reduce physician burnout and the EHR burden by improving teamwork and practice efficiency. As a side effect, we discovered the principles behind Agile teamwork, reducing waste, and the ideas underlying High Performance Teams (both running one, and teaching clinics how to become one).

The talk is 50 minutes and the podium is shared with my colleague Katie Morrison MD, Director of the WellDOM program (Wellness in the Department of Medicine at University of Colorado) and my colleague Amber Sieja MD, Senior Medical Director of Informatics at UCHealth. I’m grateful for their brilliance and collaboration.

The TL;DR is:

  • Sometimes you have to borrow and steal a team to get started
  • Get the right people on the bus: a physician informaticist, nurse informaticist, project manager all are crucial
  • EHR efficiency is NOT only about physicians: it is about teamwork
  • 2-week Sprints are a good timeline: short enough to be urgent, long enough to make some real change in the clinic
  • Eventually you’ll discover Agile, Lean, High Performance Team principles. Live them, and teach them to sustain yourselves

CMIO’s Take? TL;DR. Just do it.

Ditch the drama (Cy Wakeman) and others…

Our organization recently hosted Cy Wakeman, HR pro extraordinaire, on her topic of how to Ditch the Drama and Drive Big Results. Of course, I had a scheduling conflict and missed it. After hearing the rave reviews, I did what I usually do: see if she has something online. Sure enough, she had given a similar talk at SXSW 2018. Here is below.

It is 54 minutes long, so not a TED talk, but FIND THE TIME. She has a ton of great ideas, great stories from her own life, and she tells it well. My favorite points:

  • Ask a colleague who is having a melt-down: What does GREAT look like if you were at your best right now?
  • Your brain has a toggle between VENTING and SELF-REFLECTION. You cannot do both at the same time. Asking a colleague who is venting to stop and think: “What is the best thing I could be doing (for my patient right now, or for the team right now)?” flips this switch.

Nicely put. Although I’m tempted to put this in front of my colleagues and my family (we so often blame others, when we have interpersonal trouble), I think I’ll watch this again and really absorb some lessons for myself.

There are echoes in her talk of “7 Habits of highly effective people” (seek first to understand before being understood) and “Crucial Conversations” (control your own stories) and “Good to Great” (Level 5 leaders), and “The Fred Factor” (change lives by building surprising relationships).

CMIO’s take? Listen, learn, apply to yourself FIRST even if tempted to force others to watch this. SO helpful.