Can EMRs Lead to a Failure to Communicate?

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , April 29, 2010

One physician commented to the researchers that individuals will use EMRs and electronic communications—instead of knocking on a practice door or walking across the hall to talk to a partner or colleague. "You might not see your partner all day, whereas in the old days, we would ask what does [that partner or colleague] think?"

But as EMR use grows, providers could take some advice from experienced EMR users in avoiding some of these pitfalls. For instance, several physicians interviewed said that showing patients portions of their records "could facilitate more accurate documentation and joint decision making." This could also help avoid a sense of alienation for patients while the physician or provider looks at the computer screen.

One physician noted that reviewing a problem list and a medication list together "provides a nice triangular interaction between the physician, the computer and the patient.

For communications between providers, many of those interviewed believe nothing could replace the "interactive aspects" of face-to face or phone conversations for complicated patient situations.

No doubt about it, EMRs are likely to provide new and improved dimensions to quality care. But in this era where data can be transferred as fast as the speed of light, maybe it might be worth considering slowing down with a little old-fashioned "face time."

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Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at

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