Computers in Exam Rooms May Hinder Effective Communication

Computers in patient exam rooms have become commonplace in healthcare, but they may be perceived by both physicians and patients as a barrier to effective communication. MedPageToday recently addressed the subject when it published a perspective in which a patient confesses jealousy toward the doctor’s computer. The patient, Howard Wolinky, a MedPageToday contributing writer, states: “It’s actually disturbing when you talk to an expert about big things impacting your well-being, and they’re focused on a computer screen. I feel like screaming: ‘Hey Doc, I’m over here!’”

Many patients agree with Wolinksy. A study conducted by researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center examined patients’ perception of computer use during office visits. The results revealed that patients perceived physicians who communicated directly with the patient, without the computer, as more compassionate, professional and as having better communication skills. Additionally, study participants indicated a preference for a “face to face” physician as their provider.

Although eliminating the use of computers in exam rooms may be difficult, there are alternatives including the use of a scribe, voice activated dictation or taking written notes that may be dictated or entered into the EHR after the visit. To facilitate the use of computers during patient encounters, MLMIC’s Risk Management Department has developed strategies on how best to engage the patient while still using this technology during the visit.

Click here to read MLMIC’s Risk Management Tip: “The Use of Computers in Examination Rooms.”