“It’s like texting at the dinner table”: A qualitative analysis of the impact of electronic health records on patient-physician interaction in hospitals

Kimberly D Pelland, Rosa R Baier, Rebekah L Gardner


Background: Electronic health records (EHRs) may reduce medical errors and improve care, but can complicate clinical encounters.

Objective: To describe hospital-based physicians’ perceptions of the impact of EHRs on patient-physician interactions and contrast these findings against office-based physicians’ perceptions

Methods: We performed a qualitative analysis of comments submitted in response to the 2014 Rhode Island Health Information Technology Survey. Office- and hospital-based physicians licensed in Rhode Island, in active practice, and located in Rhode Island or neighboring states completed the survey about their Electronic Health Record use.

Results: The survey’s response rate was 68.3% and 2,236 (87.1%) respondents had EHRs. Among survey respondents, 27.3% of hospital-based and 37.8% of office-based physicians with EHRs responded to the question about patient interaction. Five main themes emerged for hospital-based physicians, with respondents generally perceiving EHRs as negatively altering patient interactions. We noted the same five themes among office-based physicians, but the rank-order of the top two responses differed by setting: hospital-based physicians commented most frequently that they spend less time with patients because they have to spend more time on computers; office-based physicians commented most frequently on EHRs worsening the quality of their interactions and relationships with patients.

Conclusion: In our analysis of a large sample of physicians, hospital-based physicians generally perceived EHRs as negatively altering patient interactions, although they emphasized different reasons than their office-based counterparts. These findings add to the prior literature, which focuses on outpatient physicians, and can shape interventions to improve how EHRs are used in inpatient settings.


electronic health records; qualitative research; physician patient relationship

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14236/jhi.v24i2.894


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