Doctor calls the EHR: 'The third person in the exam room'

Just like a third person isn't good for a marriage, the electronic health record (EHR) gets in the way of the doctor-patient relationship, writes Cheryl L. Branche, M.D., in a commentary in Medical Economics.

Branche, a former practicing physician, says she can comment on the EHR from both perspectives: that of doctor and patient. Patients, she writes, don't expect their doctors to multitask, focusing not only on the person in front of them but on performing data entry and focusing on their computers. She calls the EHR "the third person in the examination room."

While the goals behind adoption of the EHR are good ones--such as reducing errors because of poor handwriting and making it easy to retrieve reports and lab results--something has been lost, says Branche.

"The EHR may seem to improve the business of medicine," she writes, "but what is its role in the caring for the patient?" Although she is slowly getting used to a doctor's visit that is more hurried and where she gets less attention from her own doctor, Branche suggests that perhaps there needs to be a box to click on the EHR for giving a dose of attention and compassion.

The EHR has created frustrations for many physicians, who often complain about the amount of time they must spend on these electronic records, but if there is any good news it is that their proficiency increases with experience using a new system. But one study agreed with Branche's viewpoint, as it found EHR use reduced direct patient care time and changes clinician workflow.

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