A new “body” has come between you and your physician- one who accompanies the doctor to the exam room with you on all your visits.  That body is the computer!  It springs to life as your doctor dictates your health into its memory banks.

Is the computer intrusive or welcomed?

The board of trustees of the AMA (American Medical Association) has just released a report named “Exam Room Computing & Patient-Physician Interactions” regarding these computers and the relationship between patient satisfaction and doctor communication with the patient and computer.  The issue will be discussed at the AMA House of Delegates’ June meeting which will take place in Chicago.

According to the 2005 study by the board, patients were “satisfied with the physician’s level of familiarity, communication about medical issues and the degree of comprehension with decisions made during the visit all improved significantly” after their physician began using a computer in the exam room.”

But as computers are taking a more visible and stronger role in the exam rooms with patients and physicians, do patients still feel satisfied?

An article published in the Family Practice Management journal advises doctors using computers to:

  • inform patients what they are entering on the computer;
  • Use templates for documentation, but not for structuring patient interviews
  • Point out information on the screen
  • Direct attention to the patients, not the screen
  • Encourage patient participation when inputting information (Robeznieks, Modern Healthcare, 5/13).

Solution for more patient attention?

Not having computers participate in your healthcare is not an option.  With the healthcare reform of 2009 came a mandate that all physicians have an electronic medical record system and that this system comply with meaningful use which means that it will interface with other sites (e.g. pharmacies, labs, hospitals).   A happy medium can be struck by dictating the information into the computer as opposed to staring at the screen and putting in the appropriate “pokes” into the templates.  The physician can look at the patient while the dictation is taking place affording the patient a more personal encounter.  Satisfaction will soar by this along with the patient hearing the doctor’s findings and thoughts so that there is complete transparency.

What has been your experience?  Comment in the box below.