Background: General practice has rapidly computerised over the past ten years, thereby changing the nature of general practice rooms. Most general practice consulting rooms were designed and created in an era without computer hardware, establishing a pattern of work around maximising the doctor-patient relationship. General practitioners (GPs) and patients have had to integrate the computer into this environment.
Methods: Twenty GPs allowed access to their rooms and consultations as part of a larger study. The results are based on an analysis of still shots of the consulting rooms. Analysis used dramaturgical methodology; thus the room is described as though it is the setting for a play.
Results: First, several desk areas were identified: a shared or patient area, a working area, a clinical area and an administrative area. Then, within that framework, we were able to identify two broad categories of setting, one inclusive of the patient and one exclusive.
Conclusion: With the increasing significance of the computer in the three-way doctor-patient-computer relationship, an understanding of the social milieu in which the three players in the consultation interact (the staging) will inform further analysis of the interaction, and allow a framework for assessing the effects of different computer placements.