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It’s time for primary care physicians to rethink technology in their exam rooms

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Primary care physicians want more time to focus on their patients during each visit. While technology has been designed to help them do just that, many providers find that learning and managing the technology in the exam room is potentially cumbersome, time-consuming, and even distracting for them and their patients. Primary care physicians can, and should, rethink the use of technology in their exam rooms, to find ways that it can actually help them spend more time developing that critical relationship with their patients.

Electronic health records (EHRs), in particular, are designed to help the primary care physician become more efficient, creating more time for focusing on the patient. Tom Schwieterman, MD, Midmark Vice President of Clinical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer, writing in Physicians Practice, offers three suggestions for physicians to “help ensure a pleasant in-room experience when introducing new technology at the point of care.”

Limit electronic barriers. Seemingly counterintuitive to the argument for rethinking the use of technology, Dr. Schwieterman suggests that in-room electronic devices should be virtually invisible. He suggests that “Clicks of all types need to be reduced (or eliminated), data flows from connected devices need to be automated and the user interface must be optimized for efficiency.”

Make data entry seamless. Again, clicks need to be minimal when using technology in the exam room. He adds that “Results from vital signs measurements should find their way automatically into the patient record. Data entry templates need to be painstakingly optimized to ensure the workflow is as efficient as possible.”

Choose exam room equipment that is designed, or redesigned, with modern digital technologies in mind. Primary care physicians should consider the visual design of the exam room. The provider’s computer should be positioned so that the physician faces the patient while inputting data or reviewing the patient’s medical record. Dr. Schwieterman emphasizes that “EHR technology impacts virtually every step in the care journey,” and as a result, “the exam room layout needs to consider how EHR attributes can be optimized for workflow considerations.”