Providers too 'tethered' to computers, doc warns

Technology pulls doctors's focus away from their patients,potentially alienating them, Oklahoma-based physician John Henning Schumann wrote this week in an article for The Atlantic. Today's doctors and nurses literally are "tethered" to computers, he said which often leads to less personal care and reduces valuable face-to-face communication with colleagues.

"Of course, doctors and nurses can and often do still talk," he said. "Nurses are expected to call doctors when there is any lack of clarity. Yet something elemental [dare I say social?] has been lost."

Schumann's concerns are ones that repeatedly have been raised and addressed by both providers and patients. For instance, James Salwitz, posting on his Sunrise Rounds blog in April, said that he thinks both doctors and patients will have to change their habits.

"Patients must understand that for moments the doctor will look at the computer instead of directly at them, and not be offended," Salwitz said. "Doctors need to take time during each visit to look patients in the eye, instead of ogling the monitor. … Doctors must never teach or give advice while at the keyboard. We must turn, see and touch our patients."

To that end, medical schools increasingly are including in their curriculums courses geared toward preventing physicians from being overly reliant on technology.

The emergence of e-patients, meanwhile, has created somewhat of a new breed of patients--ones who are more understanding and engaged in their care--according to Schumann.

Still, though, not every patient is willing to be an engaged e-patient.

"On my best days in practice, it seems as though all of my patients are savvy, engaged and connected: e-patients," Schumann said. "On the bad days, I feel like an overcompensated data entry clerk."

To learn more:
- read Schumann's post in The Atlantic
- read Salwitz's blog post

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