Some have complained that electronic medical records weaken the therapeutic relationship. The direct face-to-face contact of medical professionals with their patient is not only a potential source of information, but part of the healing process. In terms of information, patients’ physical appearance and behavior during an interview may reflect their medical condition or whether they are being entirely forthcoming in their reports of symptoms. In terms of healing, people clearly gain benefits from the attention and sympathy of others. Weakening the quality of these interactions could erode service effectiveness.
How do computers get in the way of therapeutic relationships?
- Computers can be a physical barrier, especially when the screen stands between the people.
- Computers draw attention. Many people look towards the keyboard when typing and everyone looks at the screen to assure that they have entered words and numbers correctly.
- Computers can readily distract. A fundamental quality of the machine is its versatility. With a click or two, the application can shift from medical records to communications or weather reports.
To some extent, these problems are a phase. For those who remember the olden days, computers are such an improvement over the very best typewriters ever, but still the main means of entering information is typing. The dream of voice recognition software converting dictation into text has fallen well short of practical application. But, really, a better way of getting information into a computer is likely in the 21st century.
In the interim, a few steps to maintain contact while using medical records applications.
- Pause and look at the patient. Pauses can be short and meaningful. They introduce a rhythm into conversation, helping it to flow along more smoothly.
- Minimize the gizmo. A touchpad is much less intrusive than a computer monitor. Small is beautiful.
- Close the session with fully attending to the patient. It is important to consciously shift your attention away from the information to the person. Both the patient and the provider can convey something important in that moment.
Are gizmos an asset or a challenge in your people contacts at work?