Survey: 97 percent of patients OK docs' using technology during a visit

By Jonah Comstock
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A new survey conducted by voice recognition software company Nuance Communications shows that patients don't have a problem with their doctors using technology during visits, as long as technology doesn't get in the way of a meaningful interaction with their physician.

Nuance surveyed 3,000 patients in three countries: the United States, the UK and Germany. They found that 97 percent of patients approved of their doctor using technology (including desktop computers and mobile devices) during a consultation, and an additional 58 percent said technology positively impacts their overall experience, especially when it's "used collaboratively to educate or explain." 

NuanceBut technology does cut into the already short span of face-to-face time patients have with their doctor. More than 33 percent of patients said they spent less than 10 minutes during in-office visits with a provider, and 40 percent said they felt rushed during their appointments.

“Physicians just don’t spend enough time with their patients nor do they look at their patients anymore. I hear that complaint from patients on a regular basis,” Dr. Mark Michelman, vice president of medical affairs at BayCare Health Network in Clearwater, Florida, said in a statement released by Nuance. ”The electronic medical record and mandated regulatory documentation are requiring the physicians to spend much more time on the computer and allowing them less time to spend with their patients. This has a very negative effect on the patients who want the physician to spend more time with them and actually have eye contact with them, not with the computer.”

Nuance asked patients which factors of a patient visit contribute to better care. Seventy-three percent named "time for discussion" and 66 percent wanted "verbal communication of specific recommendations". German patients rated privacy in the exam room as the third most important factor, while US and UK respondents named "eye contact with physicians".

Finally, Nuance also asked patients what they did to ensure their own health engagement. They found that overall, 80 percent of patients said they felt engaged in their own health. Specifically, 68 percent said they brought a list of questions to each doctor visit, 39 percent said they had checked an online source like WebMD prior to the visit, and 20 percent brought their own personal health data from a monitoring device.

"I found the Nuance data to be very helpful," Beth Israel Deaconess CIO John Halamka wrote in a blog post. "Clearly to deliver the high quality, safe, efficient care our patients demand, we must embrace current technologies while realizing they are insufficient and need to evolve.  We must work in care teams, and grow the number of care traffic controllers serving as the navigators for patient wellness. We must listen to our patients/families, leveraging their opinions to reform our existing workflow and processes. Now that we have data to guide us, I look forward to creating the next generation of tools."