Eye-Gaze Patterns and How It Affects Doctor-Patient Interaction

Electronic health records Nowadays, more and more healthcare institutions are using an electronic health records system in place of the old practice of keeping patient’s records on paper charts. This paved the way for less consultation time and more efficient records keeping. But does this improve physician-patient interaction?

Gaze patterns are important indicators of a physician’s attention to their patients. This is also important in establishing physician-patient relationships and rapport. When a patient enters the consultation room, the examination starts as early as when the doctor makes eye contact with their patients. This is a source of health information as well as non-verbal cues which may help in proper diagnosis and treatment.

In an effort to establish a relationship between utilizing an electronic health records system and effective patient care, a study published in the International Journal of Medical Informatics found that there is a significant difference in the physician’s attention and communication to his patient when using electronic health records compared with using paper charts.

The study was conducted documenting 100 patient visits in a primary clinic. Using a video camera, gaze behaviors and patterns were recorded and interpreted using pre-established coding schemes. The data was then analyzed using statistical methods.

According to Enid Montague, the first author of the study, it has been found that physician-patient gaze patterns are different during visits in which electronic health records are used as opposed to paper charts. It has also been observed that the physician gives less attention to their patients and more to their computer screens. The patients were also observed to look more at the screens although they don’t have any comprehension of what they see on it.

Montague mentioned that this may study may help in the development of better technology in the field. This could serve as a basis for enhanced training guidelines for our electronic health record specialists to further improve future systems.

This study hopes to contribute to add knowledge to the impact of current technology to physician patient relationship. Understanding different gaze patterns and how the electronic health records system affects them is essential in the enhancement of the record keeping designs which may improve physician-patient relationship.

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