January 9, 2012
We live in a vastly different world than any of our ancestors did, primarily because of our easy access to information. We are more informed about history, politics, health, and pop culture than we ever have been. We are more connected to our peers, co-workers, and family members than most of us probably want to be. We can pay our bills while waiting for a child’s band concert to start, catch up on email while standing in line at the grocery store, and conduct quick Google searches on the fly.
But in some ways, our connectedness is estranging us from our fellow human beings, both in the doctor’s office and out. No one denies the benefits inherent in health information technology, particularly electronic health records, but there is the sense that physicians are becoming too dependent upon their computers and gadgets, which, despite the convenience factor, are not always the best mediators between two people trying to communicate. Sometimes, communication needs to happen the “old-fashioned” way: face to face.
In some cases computer use is unavoidable, but any time you place a computer monitor or other electronic device between doctor and patient, an automatic barrier goes up between the two. A doctor may be too busy clicking through screens to look up at the patient every now and then, a habit that is frowned upon by most patients, to put it mildly. Most doctors try to work around this issue, but it proves difficult at times, especially if they are still learning the software.
Therefore, physicians are tasked with a double burden: satisfying the needs of the patient while satisfying the demands of the software. It takes time to work out a balance between the two, and some doctors may never be able to devote the proper amount of attention to both.
A simple solution to both of these problems would be to use voice dictation, rather than a mouse and keyboard, to navigate through an EMR. This way, a doctor can get all the information onto the computer without even looking at the monitor, greatly reducing the time it takes to document the information, and bridging the gap between doctor and patient.
One of the greatest things about technology is that technology itself can be the means to solve problems caused by technology. Technology is always evolving, searching for more efficient ways to accomplish tasks. Doctors don’t have to settle with a traditional EMR and sacrifice their relationships with patients; with a more innovative and user-friendly EHR, doctors can improve their workflow without hampering valuable communication with patients.