Engaging Patients with EHR

Imagine this scenario. You’ve waited almost an hour to see your family doctor. You spend a few minutes telling her your symptoms. As you talk, her eyes are almost constantly on her tablet as she types things in. You’re not sure what she’s doing, but it sure seems like she’s not paying attention to you.

Now, most of us know that of course the physician in this fictional scenario is listening. She’s typing in symptoms and navigating the system, both of which will help her provide better care for her patient. But to her patient, the one person who matters most, the doctor isn’t listening at all.

This is a simple example of how EHR can create distance and disengagement with patients. And, it’s why physicians and other health practitioners need to be more aware of how their use of EHR might affect patient relationships.

It’s a tough balancing act. Physicians need to look at their screen or tablet. And, they need to listen to the patient. So it’s tempting, especially with the time pressures of the day, to do both. However, keeping your eyes down cuts you off from patients. And they notice that you’re a bit disengaged.

You can overcome this by engaging patients with the EHR experience. Instead of silently typing things in, hold the tablet up so your patient can see the screen. Tell them what you’re doing, and explain how the EHR system will help you provide better care.

As the patient is talking, take some time to actively listen to what they’re saying. Give them your full attention, and let them know you’re listening with verbal cues such as “Ok,” or, “I understand.”

A wonderful article published on Medscape about this very issue quoted a statement issued by the AMA. Apparently, enough patients have complained about the interference of EHR in the examination room that they’ve deemed it necessary to start providing physicians with tips and strategies they can use to interact with both patients and technology effectively.

One thing that the AMA recommends is that physicians start putting questions related to EHR on their patient satisfactions surveys. Getting feedback from your patients on how you handled the EHR system is one of the best ways to discover what you need to improve.

Another strategy you can use is to put the laptop, computer, or tablet in a strategic location. Make sure it’s located in a place that allows you to see the screen and the patient at the same time. Better yet, put the computer on a wall mount or swivel arm so you can easily share information, graphs, or x-rays with the patient.

EHR is going to be a part of your relationship with your patients from now on. It’s incredibly important that all physicians learn how to integrate technology into their relationships with patients. Not only will your own practice grow, but your patients will leave feeling as if they were really heard. And, all of us need more of that feeling in our lives!