The Effects of Electronic Medical Records on Patient-Physician Relationships and Interactions
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In 2009, the federal government passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as a stimulus bill. This bill included the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which provided spending to create a national system of electronic medical records (EMRs). The goal of implementing EMRs nationwide was to improve the quality of medical documentation, decrease patient safety hazards and healthcare costs, and improve communication between healthcare providers. The switch to EMRs from paper records has been accompanied by the incorporation of computers into examination rooms in order to document required patient information. The survey conducted for this thesis found that physicians believe that relationships with patients with paper records were of better quality that with current electronic records. Over half of the physicians who responded to the survey said that with the concurrent use of computers in clinical visits for EMRs there is less face to face interaction and significantly reduced eye contact with patients. Physicians overall did not favor EMRs and said that computers interfere with patient-physician interaction. One way to avoid this interference is for physicians to share the computer screen with patients, allowing for patient collaboration. The best long term solution to decrease the impact of computers in patient-physician interaction is to begin formal training in proper EMR use during clinical visits and in verbal and non-verbal communication skills at the start of medical education. With training, physicians will be better equipped to maintain meaningful relationships with patients by learning to use EMRs for the benefit of the patient.