Patients prefer doctors not use computers in exam room

October 23, 2017

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - A new study suggests that people with advanced cancer prefer doctors communicate with them face-to-face with just a notepad in hand rather than repeatedly using a computer. These findings will be presented at the upcoming 2017 Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium in San Diego, California.

"To our knowledge, this is the only study that compares exam room interactions between people with advanced cancer and their physicians, with or without a computer present," said lead study author Ali Haider, MD, an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in the Department of Palliative, Rehabilitation, and Integrative Medicine, which also funded the study.

Many doctors now use a computer software program for managing electronic health records. The researchers were concerned that it might impair communication with patients and also knew from earlier research that people with chronic health concerns, and often accompanying emotional issues, want their doctors to talk to them directly.

About the Study

The researchers filmed four approximately 2-minute videos that featured actors who were carefully scripted and used the same gestures, expressions, and other nonverbal communication in each video to minimize bias:

Video 1: Doctor A in a face-to-face consultation with just a notepad in hand

Video 2: Doctor A in a consultation using a computer

Video 3: Doctor B in a face-to-face consultation with just a notepad in hand

Video 4: Doctor B in a consultation using a computer

The patients in the study had either localized, recurrent, or metastatic disease. Ninety percent were fully physically functional, and all were English speakers. To further standardize and control their assessment, the researchers captured patient information on psychosocial factors, age, and level of education upon enrollment.

The researchers randomly assigned 120 patients to four equal-sized groups. After viewing their first video, the patients completed a validated questionnaire rating the doctor's communication skills, professionalism, and compassion. Subsequently, each group was assigned to a video topic (face-to-face or computer) they had not viewed previously featuring an actor-doctor they had not viewed in the first video. A follow-up questionnaire was given after this round of viewing, and the patients were also asked to rate their overall physician preference.

Key Findings

After the first round of viewing, the patients rated doctors in the face-to-face video as having more compassion and better communication skills and professionalism than the doctors who used the computer in the exam room. After having watched both videos, 72% of participants favored the face-to-face interaction.

"We know that having a good rapport with patients can be extremely beneficial for their health," said Dr. Haider. "Patients with advanced disease need the cues that come with direct interaction to help them along with their care."

The researchers note that their study answers questions about patients' perceptions, but not how to address the issue of computer use in an exam room.

Next Steps

"Our study was done at an outpatient clinic, so it is probably more pertinent in that setting compared to a hospital where patient-doctor interactions are more frequent and rigorous," said Dr. Haider. "We are pretty certain that people will permit another entity in the exam room, but our study shows that if the third entity is a computer, the computer is not preferred."

The researchers believe that they would probably find the same results if the study was conducted with people with early-stage cancer. However, they weren't so sure about a younger population with higher computer literacy and said that population might be the subject of a future study.

American Society of Clinical Oncology

Related Health Articles from Brightsurf:

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

Modifiable health risks linked to more than $730 billion in US health care costs
Modifiable health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking, were linked to over $730 billion in health care spending in the US in 2016, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health.

New measure of social determinants of health may improve cardiovascular health assessment
The authors of this study developed a single risk score derived from multiple social determinants of health that predicts county-level cardiovascular disease mortality.

BU study: High deductible health plans are widening racial health gaps
The growing Black Lives Matter movement has brought more attention to the myriad structures that reinforce racial inequities, in everything from policing to hiring to maternal mortality.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

E-health resource improves men's health behaviours with or without fitness facilities
Men who regularly used a free web resource made significantly more health changes than men who did not, finds a new study from the University of British Columbia and Intensions Consulting.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental health of health care workers in china in hospitals with patients with COVID-19
This survey study of almost 1,300 health care workers in China at 34 hospitals equipped with fever clinics or wards for patients with COVID-19 reports on their mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia and distress.

Health records pin broad set of health risks on genetic premutation
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marshfield Clinic have found that there may be a much broader health risk to carriers of the FMR1 premutation, with potentially dozens of clinical conditions that can be ascribed directly to carrying it.

Attitudes about health affect how older adults engage with negative health news
To get older adults to pay attention to important health information, preface it with the good news about their health.

Read More: Health News and Health Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to