Healthcare News & Insights

Don’t let EHRs get between doctors and patients: 4 keys

Technology can do a lot to improve care and boost efficiency at healthcare organizations. But if the right steps aren’t taken, it can also make patients feel alienated and ignored by their doctors. 

Healthcare technology such as electronic health records can go a long way to boosting the quality of care and increasing efficiency and performance. Most healthcare organizations seem to agree, as EHR adoption rates continue to grow, especially among smaller physician practices.

However, as EHR and other health IT adoption quickly increases, it’s important for doctors, management and staff to consider how that technology will impact day-to-day interactions between doctors and patients.

If the proper precautions aren’t taken, technology can act as a wedge between doctors and other people, including nurses, other doctors and patients, warned primary care physician John Henning Schumann in the a recent article in the Atlantic.

While electronic systems make it easier for doctors to do their jobs, they also make it easier to do those jobs without interacting with anyone else. For example, tests and treatments can be ordered through the system, eliminating the need to speak with nurses or other doctors. That can take away valuable opportunities for those parties to share information.

Those systems can also make it too easy to copy and paste information between electronic files, Schumann ways. That can eliminate good chances to ask patients to offer more information or apply fresh thinking to a situation.

And, given all the information that’s available in an EHR system, some doctors may be tempted to make more eye contact with the computer screen than with the patient during a visit. Even if that doesn’t affect the quality of the care that’s given, it can have a serious negative impact on patient satisfaction.

Here are some steps organizations can take to make sure technology doesn’t get in the way of doctors’ relationships with patients and others:

  1. Organize workspaces properly — If doctors will be using desktop computers to access EHRs in exam rooms, make sure those stations are set up in a way that makes it easier for the doctor to face and look at the patient while working on the computer.
  2. Consider tablets for EHR viewing — Mobile devices such as tablet computers can also be used to access EHRs in a way that retains the same feel as working with a paper chart.
  3. Use technology to increase interaction — Schumann’s article cites one example of a doctor using a computer in an exam room to show a patient his MRI scan. Doctors should look for times like that when they can use the technology they have available to educate patients and get them more involved in their own care.
  4. Have doctors explain what’s happening — Making patients feel better about the change in doctor-patient interaction might be as simple as doctors explaining that although they will need to take time to type information into the EHR, they are still listening. Also, when doctors do something on the computer, they can explain what they are doing and how it will benefit the patient.

Subscribe Today

Get the latest and greatest healthcare news and insights delivered to your inbox.


  1. We need to stop and wonder if the easy step to copy and paste is abused from one date of service to another. I understand some information should carry from one visit to another but should a provider update what he/she does not actually review with the patient just to increase a level of service? Patients put there trust into the healthcare system therefore a physicain should take into condieration what was addressed in a visits not what can increase the level of pay.