Commentary: Lost in translation? How electronic health records structure communication, relationships, and meaning

Acad Med. 2012 Apr;87(4):392-4. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e318248e5ae.


The media through which we communicate shape how we think, how we act, and who we are. Electronic health records (EHRs) may promote more effective, efficient, coordinated, safer care. Research is emerging, but more is needed to assess the effect of EHRs on communication, relationships, patients' trust, adherence, and health outcomes. The authors posit that EHRs introduce a "third party" into exam room interactions that competes with the patient for clinicians' attention, affects clinicians' capacity to be fully present, and alters the nature of communication, relationships, and physicians' sense of professional role. Screen-driven communication inhibits patients' narratives and diminishes clinicians' responses to patients' cues about psychosocial issues and emotional concerns. Students, trainees, and clinicians can, however, learn to integrate EHRs into triadic exam room interactions to facilitate information sharing and shared decision making.Student exposure to EHRs is currently limited. Educators and researchers should implement curricula and assessment tools to help learners integrate EHRs into clinical interactions in ways that foster, rather than diminish, communication and relationships. Further, educators must prioritize the teaching and modeling of self-awareness and self-calibration, mindful presence, and compassion within such curricula to prevent these important qualities and skills from being lost in translation in the digital era.

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical
  • Electronic Health Records*
  • Humans
  • Physician's Role*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*