Electronic health records (EHR) have transformed traditional patient care as physicians can now search and enter information directly into computers or other devices while treating a patient during an exam. However, the presence of computers in the exam room can be a mixed blessing.
While the immediate availability of information is beneficial, it can interfere with the interaction between the physician and patient. The physician may be too focused on entering information into the computer and therefore not connecting with the patient.
To address this problem, physicians should take a "back-to-basics" approach when using computers during patient interactions.
A simple way for physicians to connect with patients is by making eye contact, especially while the patient is speaking, in order to show that they are listening to what the patient is saying.
Physicians often need to enter information while the patient is speaking and it may be helpful to arrange the exam room so that information can be entered into a computer without the physician's back facing the patient.
If the physician has a tablet device, he or she can hold the tablet like a clipboard while speaking to the patient or even prop the tablet up using his or her knee. This would allow the physician to face the patient and easily alternate between entering information on the tablet and making eye contact with the patient.
Placing the computer so the physician can use it while seated is also helpful. Patients will rate their satisfaction with a physician higher when the physician sits rather than stands during the patient exam.
Sharing the computer screen with patients can make them feel more connected as well, though it is important that the physician instructs the patient exactly where to look on the screen in order to understand the information. Some patients may not feel comfortable telling the physician that the screen is too high, not in focus or that they simply don't understand the layout of information on the screen. Physicians should take the time to ensure that the patient understands the information being shown to them.
By taking the extra time to face the patient, make eye contact, listen carefully to their concerns and share information with them, physicians can strengthen the connection to their patients and improve overall patient satisfaction.