Effect of computer use on physician-patient communication using a validated instrument: Patient perspective
Background: Physician-patient communication is essential in the physician-patient relationship. Concerns were
raised about the impact of the computer on this relationship with the increase in use of electronic medical
records (EMR). Most studies addressed the physician’s perspective and only few explored the patient’s perspective.
Aim: This study aims to assess the patient’s perspective of the effect of the physician’s computer use during the
clinical encounter on the interpersonal and communication skills of the physician using a validated communication
assessment tool (CAT).
Design and settings: This is a cross-sectional survey of three hundred eighty-two patients who visited the family
medicine clinics (FMC) at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC).
Material and methods: At the end of the visit with the physician, the patients were approached by the clinical
assistant to fill a paper-based questionnaire privately in the waiting room to measure communication skills of
physicians using CAT.
Results: Nearly two-thirds of the patients (62%) did not consider that using the computer by their physician
during the visit would negatively affect the patient-doctor communication. Patients rated their physician with a
higher communication score when there was an ongoing relationship between the physician and the patient.
Higher communication scores were reported for extensive use of the computer by the physician to check results
(p < 0.001), to retrieve patient record information (p < 0.001) and to educate patients (p < 0.001) as
compared to less use.
Conclusions: Physician-patient communication was not negatively affected by the physician use of the computer
as rated by patients. An ongoing relationship with the physician remains a significant predictor of better physician-
patient communication even in the presence of the computer.
Rim Taleb, Jumana Antoun
International Journal of Medical Informatics,