Computers changing dynamic of medical consultation

From today’s edition of 6 minutes:
What the computer says about the GP

By Michael Woodhead

Like Charles and Di’s marriage, the doctor-patient relationship is looking a little crowded these days with the computer screen vying for attention, GP researchers have found.

In fact, the way a GP orients his or her computer  – and the screen in particular – says a lot about whether they have an patient-inclusive or patient-exclusive approach, says Dr Christopher Pearce from the Melbourne East General Practice Network.

In a study of 20 general practitioners’ room layouts Dr Pearce and colleagues found that most had adopted a patient-inclusive seating approach, and yet many still excluded the patient from full access to the computer screen.

While most GPs arranged their computers so that patients could see the screens, the patients often had to turn round to view it adequately, or were too far away to see the screen content and had to pull their chair forward, they found.

GPs were also reluctant to share use of the computer keyboard and mouse, they found, and sometimes even the computer printer could be a barrier between the doctor and patient.

Their study, published in the journal Primary Care Informatics (6, 111-117) does not imply that a  patient-excluding computer layout is bad, only that it results in different consultation behaviour patterns, they say.

“The screen now represents a third “face” in the consultation, one that is the object of regard of both the doctor and the patient. The keyboard and mouse are symbols of control over the computer, much in the same way that ownership of the stethoscope indicates status in the relationship,” they conclude.

See the full article here.

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