A recent study from researchers at Northwestern Medicine indicates doctors spend too much time looking at the computer screen during patient visits, and staring at an electronic health record (EHR) can get them to miss nonverbal cues.
The Northwestern scientists used video cameras to look at 100 doctor-patient visits in which doctors used computers to access EHRs. They analyzed eye-gaze patterns and how it affected communication behavior between patients and clinicians..
"We found that physician–patient eye-gaze patterns are different during a visit in which electronic health records versus a paper-chart visit are used. Not only does the doctor spend less time looking at the patient, the patient also almost always looks at the computer screen, whether or not the patient can see or understand what is on the screen," stated Enid Montague, author of the study and an assistant professor in medicine, general internal medicine and geriatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and assistant professor in industrial engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Montague says understanding eye-gaze patterns will lead to effective training guidelines and better-designed technology. The researchers say that future systems include more interactive screen sharing between physicians and patients.
"The purpose of electronic health records is to enable health care workers to provide more effective, efficient, coordinated care," Montague said. "By understanding the dynamic nature of eye-gaze patterns and how technology impacts these patterns, we can contribute to future EHR designs that foster more effective doctor–patient interaction."