A physician doing his residency at Cambrige Health Alliance writes in today’s Boston Globe (Eyes shift from patient to keyboard)
Although the computerized system has proven to be a huge help, I have confronted an unexpected challenge: Despite repositioning the computer in every imaginable way, I often find myself making more eye contact with the screen than I do with my patients. It is simply more difficult to face a patient while typing than while writing…
When I asked one of the more experienced doctors at my hospital how she deals with having a computer in the room, she said that she acknowledges the problem up front by apologizing to her patients for turning away from them. This helps her patients recognize that she is doing her best to communicate with them on a personal level even though she can’t actually face them for large parts of the visit. She also makes sure to end all visits by turning away from the computer and toward her patient while going over everything that was discussed.
There’s a simple answer to this problem: use a tablet PC instead of a traditional desktop or laptop. When used properly it feels more like a clipboard than a computer to the patient and physician. Some offices have gone further. For example when I visited the West Clinic in Singapore (an oncology clinic) they showed me the Motion Computing tablets they hand out to patients in the waiting room. That way the patient can fill in detailed information about their health status and concerns, which their doctor can review with them and integrate into the medical record.September 10, 2007