EHRs call for tech etiquette in the exam room

Just as a teenager zoned out on texting instead of listening can drive parents crazy, doctors who ignore tech etiquette in the exam room do so at their peril, according to an article at And no, it's not OK to respond to texts during a patient visit. 

The way a physician handles the disruption caused by consulting an EHR "can absolutely make or break the relationship between doctor and patient," said Larry Garber, MD, an internist and medical director of informatics at the Reliant Medical Group in Worcester, Mass.

Suffice it to say that the doctor's focus should be on the patient, not a PC or tablet. 

in fact, the article says, some medical school have gone so far as to make tech etiquette part of their curricula. Among the tips it offers:

  • Pay attention to exam-room setup. Avoid having your back to the patient while consulting on a PC or tablet. A triangle design putting the doctor, patient and PC in three corners can allow the physician to face the patient even while consulting the EHR.

  • Consult the EHR before entering the room. Never go straight to the PC. First greet the patient and set an agenda for the consultation. Then make a transition, such as "OK, let me jot down a few notes."

Kaiser Permanente has developed its own system that includes letting the patient look at the monitor along with the doctor, who explains what he or she is doing and logging off in the patient's presence to allay privacy concerns. Garber created a YouTube video on Kaiser's process, including "good doctor" and "bad doctor" examples. 

Eighty percent of physicians in a recent MedPage Today survey said technology has improved communication with their patients, though the American Hospital Association's Physician Leadership Forum recently named communication as one of the biggest gaps in physician competency.

Poor communication and limited time with doctors are common complaints worldwide, according to two recent studies from data analytics software developer SSI and market research firm The Research Intelligence Group. Physicians in the MedPage Today survey also lamented their limited time with patients, underscoring the need to make the best use of the available time in the exam room.

To learn more:
- read the article
- watch the YouTube video



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