Healthcare News & Insights

5 communication mistakes created by health IT

Doctors believe health IT helps improve communication with patients. But if a few common mistakes aren’t avoided, new technology can also make patients feel alienated and ignored. 

Switching from paper charts to an electronic health record (EHR) system creates a number of challenges for doctors who are used to the old way. And one that may not get that much attention is how those new systems affect daily patient-doctor interaction.

And now, as EHRs become more common, some medical schools have added lessons about electronic etiquette and communication to the curriculum, according to a recent American Medical News article.

But what about current physicians already working in practices and hospitals? These are some of the most common communication mistakes doctors and their organizations make when using new technology:

1. Setting up the exam room awkwardly

It’s fairly easy for a doctor to make notes on a paper chart while looking at and talking to a patient, but it can be tough with an electronic system. And things can be even worse when the computer connected to the EHR system is located far from the patient, or requires the doctor to face away from the patient.

2. Going straight to the computer when entering the room

Before, doctors would often grab the patient’s chart as soon as they went into the exam room. But doing the same thing with an EHR and going straight for the computer could send the wrong message. Instead, the doctor should go to the patient first, and if possible, read the chart beforehand so that first step can be skipped.

3. Hiding the screen from patients

It may be strange for a patient to see a doctor typing at the computer have no idea what he or she is doing. It may things along while both doctors and patients are getting used to EHRs, if doctors show patients the system and let them know what is happening. Doctors can also show patients a computer screen to display x-ray or MRI results and other images.

4. Not explaining the benefits

For a health IT adoption to be successful, it must be supported by doctors, other members of the organization, and patients. Doctors should look for opportunities to explain how a system make something faster, easier or better. For example, when placing an electronic prescription, a doctor can explain what is happening and how it helps.

5. Checking a phone while talking with a patient

It isn’t just EHRs and other health IT systems that can disrupt communication. Many doctors, especially younger ones, may be used to constantly checking a smartphone for emails or text messages, and they might even do so during a meeting with a patient without even realizing it’s an etiquette gaffe.

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