Preserving patient relations in the e-health age

December 1, 2005

Despite concerns that the use of computers in the examination room could become a distraction, a longitudinal study in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (7-8/2005) found that the technology may actually improve patient satisfaction. Researchers from Kaiser Permanente put computers into the exam rooms of eight internists and family physicians in a free-standing medical office in Portland, Ore., to determine how the technology would affect physician-patient interactions.

Despite concerns that the use of computers in the examination room could become a distraction, a longitudinal study in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (7-8/2005) found that the technology may actually improve patient satisfaction. Researchers from Kaiser Permanente put computers into the exam rooms of eight internists and family physicians in a free-standing medical office in Portland, Ore., to determine how the technology would affect physician-patient interactions.

They found that patient satisfaction levels with their visit increased from 35.4% during the precomputer baseline period to 55.7% 1 month after baseline and 59.1% 7 months after baseline. The computers also seemed to have a positive effect on physician-patient interactions, including "overall visit satisfaction, satisfaction with the physician's level of familiarity, communication about medical decisions, and patient understanding of the medical decisions." Moreover, the researchers found no significant negative effect on the physician's time to address patients' concerns or to communicate psychosocial needs.

To make the best use of computers in the exam room, an article in Medical Economics (9/2/05), a sister publication of Contemporary OB/GYN, offers these tips: