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Family Doctor Week: celebrating the outstanding contribution

November 10, 2017

To celebrate Family Physician Week, TELUS Health is highlighting Canadian physicians making a difference in family medicine and using technology to improve the health and well-being of their patients.

dr-sharon-dombDr. Sharon Domb is a family physician who has been practicing full-spectrum obstetrical care for more than 20 years. She’s also physician IT Lead at Sunnybrook Family Practice, an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, and a peer leader with OntarioMD since 2009. She served as the co-chair of the EMR Users Group at the Department of Family & Community Medicine at the University of Toronto from 2010 – 2016, and has provided guidance to numerous other academic and community groups on their EMR implementations, meaningful use and enhanced functionality.

Dr. Domb has a passion for patient care, teaching, and technology so I sat down with her to talk about family medicine and the importance of technology in healthcare.

Q: What led you to become a family physician?

A: I have always loved science, and medicine was a fascinating field. A career path that combined science with people seemed like the right avenue for me to pursue.

Family medicine was interesting because there is a multi-generational aspect to patient care in family medicine from delivering babies to offering care throughout their lives.

Q: You still find family medicine exciting after 20 years. What keeps you motivated? 

A: One of the most engaging parts of my job is being able to serve four generations of patients in the same family. Compared to other types of medicine, family medicine allows you to understand the dynamics of the family and the full history for a critical diagnosis.

Recently, I had a case with a patient showing symptoms of postpartum depression. With my understanding of her family history it enabled me to have more insight into what was going on and pinpoint a diagnosis. It’s exciting to have that in depth knowledge and rapport with patients which allows me to offer better patient care.

Q: Why is it important to you to stay involved in the academic medical world?

A: I believe it’s extremely important to look forward and stay on top of cutting-edge technology and new practices. This is what will help us progress in the medical field.

I teach [at University of Toronto] because I want to ensure the next generation continues to improve medicine and it provides me with professional growth. While teaching, I get asked questions about my decisions and have to rationalize my process. I enjoy developing young professional physicians but I also learn so much from my residents.

Q: Why is technology very important as a physician? 

A: I have always believed that technology has the ability to help with challenges. Medicine is one of the fields where you need a high volume of information at your fingertips. It is just not possible to know and remember everything.

Great technology tools can store and quickly produce information, help you keep up to date on patients, and stay knowledgeable on medical advancements. I was one of first to have an iPad for personal organization and keeping track of medical articles. I’m an advocate for learning and applying technology tools in your practice: it’s really helped me.

Q: What would you say to those resistant to technology?

A: I see this pretty regularly in my field. In fact, using technology regularly in my practice put me in the minority. My argument is that time inefficiency raises the cost to practice. By taking more time to communicate or recall patient information you waste healthcare resources.

While teaching, I am optimistic about the future. My residents are technology savvy — it’s extremely rare to see them with notepads. I believe we will see less resistance to technology in newer generations of physicians because they are used to using it in their daily life.

Q: What do you hope to see in the future of health care?

A: I really hope to see a true integration of technology across Canada. If a patient goes to pharmacy or doctor, it’s important that all providers have easy communication and access to that person’s records. Currently, not all Canadian provinces have integrated systems — many providers still fax things back and forth.

More importantly many patients are not able to communicate their histories. As a healthy individual at a routine check a patient can easily communicate your history or current prescriptions. But it’s challenging to communicate those pertinent details for older patients or those suffering in that moment.

I really look at Norway or the progress Alberta has made as great examples of where the rest of Canada needs to go.