Last post, we discussed how electronic medical records have become more common, and some of the beneficial effects they can have for patients. Particularly, we addressed how electronic records might be able to reduce the occurrence of treatment and medication errors by doctors.
However, every new system has downsides, and electronic records are no exception. There are some concerns that electronic records could have a negative impact on patients. That is what we will be addressing today.
Electronic records could negatively affect the interaction between doctors and patients. Some argue that having doctors use computers during appointments will cause patients to feel alienated. The patients may feel like the doctor is more focused on the computer than them.
If patients feel alienated, this could affect their ability to communicate with doctors. And, as we discussed last week, communication between a doctor and a patient can have a great impact on the quality of patient care. Thus, while electronic records can provide past information to doctors quickly, it can impact the quality of new information they receive from patients. This could increase the chances that a doctor will make a mistake.
Many argue, however, that the negative impact of computers on patient-doctor communication can be reduced. They claim that patient alienation has far more to do with how doctors act when they are using a computer than with use of a computer in general. Through practice, doctors can learn how to remain engaged with a patient during a conversation, even when they are using a computer to access and add to the patient’s medical records.
Thus, as electronic medical records become more common, healthcare professionals need to be aware of how their use of these records during appointments impacts their interaction with patients. While this tool can be of great use to doctors, it loses its value if it also alienates them from patients. More efforts should be put towards training doctors on how to incorporate this new tool into appointments while maintaining a strong interaction with patients.
If this is done, these records can serve their intended purpose of improving patient care and reducing errors.
Source: The Connecticut Mirror, “The doctor-patient-laptop relationship,” Arielle Levin Becker, 24 Nov 2010