Patients prefer face-to-face interactions with physicians to a digital meeting

According to a study to be presented at the 2017 Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium, patients prefer physicians communicate with them face-to-face with a notepad rather than being on the computer.

Reviewing electronic health records (EHRs) and taking patient notes require the use of a computer—and patients may feel left out of their own care. This study evaluates cancer patients' perceptions of care when physicians use computers during appointments.

"To our knowledge, this is the only study that compares exam room interactions between people with advanced cancer and their physicians, with or without a computer present," said lead study author Ali Haider, MD, an assistant professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in the department of palliative, rehabilitation and integrative medicine, which funded the study.

Researchers filmed four two-minute videos that showed scripted actors in four groups: doctor A in a face-to-face consultation with a physician with a notepad, doctor A in a consultation using a computer, doctor B in a face-to-face consultation with a patient with a notepad and doctor B in a consultation using a computer. The study enrolled 120 patients, with varying degrees of cancer progression, and split them evenly into the four groups.  Results found 72 percent of patients favored face-to-face interactions, and rated the doctors as more compassionate with better communication skills.

"We know that having a good rapport with patients can be extremely beneficial for their health," said Haider. "Patients with advanced disease need the cues that come with direct interaction to help them along with their care. Our study was done at an outpatient clinic, so it is probably more pertinent in that setting compared to a hospital where patient-doctor interactions are more frequent and rigorous. We are pretty certain that people will permit another entity in the exam room, but our study shows that if the third entity is a computer, the computer is not preferred."