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Do Electronics Harm Doctors’ Listening Abilities?

If you have a serious medical issue, the best way to ensure you get the right course of treatment is to ensure that you receive a correct diagnosis. Seeking medical attention is a crucial first step, but not the only step on the path to proper treatment. If your doctor misdiagnoses your condition, you run the risk of suffering through improper treatment or getting no treatment (and potentially your condition worsening as a result). Misdiagnosis is something that is, unfortunately, all too common in our health care system today. There are many elements that come into play when making a diagnosis, and one of these is the communication between patient and physician.

Advocates for doctors and patients alike have pointed to issues that can harm this communication, and one that both sides see as a potential obstacle is electronic health records. Electronic medical records give doctors the ability to view all a patient’s aggregate data at once, but studies have shown they decrease physician productivity. Doctors can spend too much time viewing a computer screen, which decreases the actual face-to-face time they spend assessing the patient physically in front of them.

Researchers are looking for a way to improve this aspect of the doctor-patient relationship. At Stanford University, researchers interviewed non-medical professionals whose jobs involve a high degree of human connection and compiled recommendations focused on improving a healthcare provider’s “presence.” This included encouraging doctors to go into appointments seeking to “listen intently and completely,” “connect with the patient’s story,” and “explore emotional cues.”

According to the study’s lead author, “Physicians, particularly in the primary care setting, face mounting administrative demands during brief patient visits . . . The electronic health record has the potential to support arduous tasks and patient safety, but it generates serious time demands for physicians, and its physical presence in the room can create distractions that interfere with communication and the doctor-patient relationship.” 

Not only must doctors pay attention during face-to-face exams in order to avoid potentially missing critical symptoms or information, but a distracted doctor can have other effects on health outcomes. When a patient feels that he or she has either been ignored or disrespected by a health care professional, that patient is less likely to be compliant with a treatment plan. The converse also has a significant impact on outcomes. When a patient feels that he or she is respected and listened, that patient is more likely to follow prescribed lines of treatment, have better recovery outcomes, and even report better control of pain.

Gilman & Bedigian Medical Malpractice Experts

If you feel that your physician was distracted and that distraction led to a misdiagnosis, you deserve to be compensated. Call the medical malpractice attorneys of Gilman & Bedigian today at 1-800-529-6162.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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