When A Doctor’s Screen Time Detracts From Face Time With Patients

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As Wei Wei Lee sat along with her physician to debate beginning a household, she felt a “distance” between them. The doctor was busy on the pc and targeted on the display screen.

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“It just didn’t feel very personal,” Lee stated. “I didn’t feel heard.”

It appeared as if preserving a report of the dialog was extra necessary to the physician than making a reference to Lee.

It wasn’t the expertise she wished, however she might relate: Lee is Dr. Wei Wei Lee, a major care doctor with the University of Chicago Medicine.

When she first began utilizing digital well being data (EHRs) within the examination room, Lee struggled too. She would apologize to sufferers for not giving them her full consideration. And Lee spent invaluable affected person time attempting to toggle between duties on the pc, she stated.

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Today, Lee research the affect of digital well being data on the doctor-patient relationship. She’s enthusiastic about enhancing physicians’ “computer-side manner.”

Electronic well being data may also help cut back medical errors, however when not used well they will pressure the doctor-patient relationship.

But medical suppliers — and sufferers — can be taught expertise to maintain communication flowing even when there’s a display screen within the room, Lee stated.

Improving doctor-patient communication is the subject of this week’s episode of the podcast “An Arm and a Leg.” Kaiser Health News co-produces the podcast.

KHN spoke with Lee about her survey of sufferers on the University of Chicago Medicine. Lee discovered that the overwhelming majority of them had been glad with medical doctors utilizing computer systems within the examination room. But some folks felt the main target of their appointments had shifted away from them. And the medical supplier’s physique language generally made communication harder:

In the previous, the affected person could possibly be the focus by means of that go to. Now, the doctor is de facto dividing their consideration between placing in orders and dealing within the pc with out paying full consideration to the affected person. So, eye contact, having a again to the affected person, awkward silences whereas the physician is trying up one thing within the pc — all these may cause difficult communication points for sufferers.

Those “awkward silences” can have penalties, Lee stated.

Most sufferers need to go to the physician to really feel that they’re heard and actually be capable to speak to the physician about what’s bothering them. When the pc shouldn’t be used effectively, typically it could actually make that affected person much less seemingly to return to that doctor in the event that they felt like there was a disconnect in the best way that they communicated. Other issues that may occur are medical errors. If the physician is extra distracted throughout that go to, they might put in fallacious orders for drugs or not report part of the historical past that’s pertinent.

Lee and colleagues developed methods to assist physicians higher relate to their sufferers whereas additionally working with a pc. There’s now a curriculum to show clinicians tips on how to use EHRs in a “patient-centered” method.

Loads of it has to do with behaviors and expertise that aren’t rocket science. For instance, beginning off the go to utterly technology-free. Greeting your affected person. Honoring that golden minute. Establishing rapport and dialog in that first minute can actually go a good distance. And then one other factor that’s been discovered to be very useful is screen-sharing.

So what does efficient screen-sharing appear to be? Instead of inserting the pc between the affected person and physician, the doctor can transfer his or her chair subsequent to the affected person so they’re sitting facet by facet, Lee recommended. Then, the pc is positioned in entrance of each of them — to type a triangle.And if a pc continues to be getting in the best way of dialog, Lee says sufferers shouldn’t hesitate to talk up. Her group developed a comic book utilizing a easy ABC mnemonic to show folks these expertise. Ask To See The Screen. Become Involved. Call For Attention.

I feel talking up and calling for that focus is a method to proceed to construct that relationship with their physician as a result of it might be a conduct that the physicians aren’t conscious of. There could also be occasions after they’re speaking a few delicate subject or points which have come up that they need the doctor’s undivided consideration. In these moments, I feel it’s OK to say, “Is it OK if we simply speak with out the pc for a couple of minutes?”

I feel that goes a protracted method to additionally simply signaling to the doctor that there’s something that the affected person actually finds necessary.

(Courtesy of Wei Wei Lee and The Arnold P. Gold Foundation)

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Carmen Heredia Rodriguez:”>, @ByCHRodriguez

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