Healthcare News & Insights

Don’t let computers interfere with patient communication: 5 keys

As more hospitals start using EHRs and other health IT, many doctors may need to learn new communication skills. 

147726878 (1)Doctors’ communication skills are critical for keeping patients’ satisfied. In fact, doctors’ bedside manner and how they communicate with patients may matter more for patient satisfaction than their actual medical skills, according to a recent study conducted by Vanguard Communications.

The company looked at a sample of more than 3,000 online reviews of doctors. And in the negative ratings, patients were four times more likely to cite poor customer service and bad manners than they were to complain about inadequate medical expertise or misdiagnoses. Communication-related concerns were found in 43% of all negative doctor reviews, while customer service complains were seen in 35%.

Don’t let computers get in the way

These days one of the biggest factors that can affect how well doctors communicate with their patients — or at least how patients perceive doctors’ manners — is a doctor’s use of a computer.

Switching from holding a paper chart to standing by a computer to enter data into an electronic record can sometimes be off-putting to patients, warns a recent report from the American Medical Association (AMA).

Here are some tips the AMA has for hospitals to avoid those problems:

  • Have doctors set the right example — Patients’ attitudes toward a computer in the exam room are heavily influenced by their doctor’s opinions. In other words, if doctors treat electronic records as an enhancement to care rather than a hindrance, patients are more likely to feel the same way
  • Organize the room properly — It’s important to put the computer in a position so that the doctor can continue to talk and make eye contact with the patient while entering and viewing information
  • Go mobile — Using tools such as mobile monitors or tablet PCs can help keep doctors from getting trapped behind a stationary computer
  • Get patients involved — Doctors can use computers as a way to get patients more involved in discussions by showing them their records or imaging results on the screen, and
  • Train doctors — The more comfortable doctors are with using the EHR system, the easier it is for them to use the system while still devoting more of their attention to the patient.

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