It is strange to think that a system of information and data exchange, which allows you to communicate with anyone around the entire world, interferers with connecting to the person right in front of you. We see it constantly as cell phones, Ipads, computers and even that “old” obstructer the television, get between us. At the time we need to communicate most desperately, electronics can block that most human connection of all, the physician – patient relationship.
Let us be clear. Multitasking is a fallacy. We can only do one thing at a time. We cannot drive and text. We cannot talk on a cell phone and listen to our mates. We cannot watch a game on TV and discuss finance with our partners. Most importantly, we cannot focus fully on a patient and a computer at the same time.
Now, I am 100% committed to full computerization of the medical community and exam room. The future of quality, medical safety, and cost containment can only come from full implementation of Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) with system wide analysis and the assistance of artificial intelligence. However, right now is a tough time. We need to figure out the new social mores’ and workflows, which will allow physicians to communicate with patients and with the electronic world.
Therefore, both physicians and patients need to learn new habits and establish slightly different norms for the doctor visit. Patients must understand that for moments the doctor will look at the computer instead of directly at them, and not be offended. Both doctors and patients should turn off their cell phones. Doctors need to take time during each visit to look patients in the eye, instead of ogling the monitor. Exam rooms should be set up to make this easy. It is one thing to type information (smoking history, dates they of medicines, type of surgery…) and another to ask tough personal questions while absorbed in a monitor. Doctors must never teach or give advice while at the keyboard. We must turn, see and touch our patients.