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About a third of doctors report using electronic records, double the number since 2008, says a report this month in the journal Health Affairs. Many more doctors are expected to adopt them by 2015 or face cuts in Medicare payments.
The challenge in the intimate exam room: Don't let the gadget distract from your main job, "which is helping patients with their lives," says Georgetown's WinklerPrins. He limits screen time in front of his own patients by typing notes into their charts after they leave.
Hence, the training for new doctors.
A group of actors gathered at Georgetown one recent morning, each there to play the role of an older diabetic seeking care for the first time since a spouse's death. WinklerPrins watched on a monitor outside the room as medical students conducted a 15-minute office visit. They used computerized records while giving each actor-patient test results, setting a treatment plan and sending an electronic prescription to the pharmacy.
Afterward, the "patients" offered valuable feedback. One was irritated that her would-be doctor got stuck e-prescribing and, her mind on the computer, kept repeating the same question rather than saying, "Give me a minute."
Down the hall, actor John Askew Sr. praised Shumer's bedside manner but explained the computer screen was too far away for him to see.
"If you said, `Can you see?' I would have felt less disengaged," said Askew, from Washington's Maryland suburbs.
The students see the value of electronic health records but also how easy it is to be distracted with all the clicking and scrolling.
"When I have the computer, I may be less personable, but my notes are more thorough," Shumer, of Farmington Hills, Mich., told his professor. "It's easier to have a relationship when the computer is not there."
Hopefully, the systems will get less clunky, WinklerPrins responded: "We don't lose, in the meantime, the focus on the patient."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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