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Doctors glued to computers miss on patients' time

Posted on Jan 26 2014 | IANS

New York, Jan 26 : Doctors who spend too much time looking into electronic health records in hospitals divert their attention from communicating with patients, says a new study.

"When doctors spend much time looking at the computer, it can be difficult for patients to get their attention," said Enid Montague, an assistant professor in medicine, general internal medicine and geriatrics at Chicago-based Northwestern University.

"It's likely that the ability to listen, problem-solve and think creatively is not optimal when physicians' eyes are glued to the screen," he added.

Using video cameras, Northwestern scientists recorded 100 doctor-patient visits in which doctors used computers to access electronic health records.

The videos were used to analyse eye-gaze patterns and how they affected communication behaviour between patients and doctors.

They found that physician-patient eye-gaze patterns are different during a visit in which electronic health records versus a paper-chart visit are used.

Not only does the doctor spend less time looking at the patient, the patient also almost always looks at the computer screen, whether or not the patient can see or understand what is on the screen, said the study published in the journal International Journal of Medical Informatics.

Understanding physicians' eye-gaze patterns and their effects on patients can contribute to more effective training guidelines and better-designed technology.

"By understanding the dynamic nature of eye-gaze patterns and how technology impacts these patterns, we can contribute to future EHR designs that foster more effective doctor-patient interaction," Montague added.

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