Dynamic modeling of patient and physician eye gaze to understand the effects of electronic health records on doctor-patient communication and attention

Int J Med Inform. 2014 Mar;83(3):225-34. doi: 10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2013.11.003. Epub 2013 Nov 28.


Objective: The aim of this study was to examine eye gaze patterns between patients and physicians while electronic health records were used to support patient care.

Background: Eye gaze provides an indication of physician attention to patient, patient/physician interaction, and physician behaviors such as searching for information and documenting information.

Methods: A field study was conducted where 100 patient visits were observed and video recorded in a primary care clinic. Videos were then coded for gaze behaviors where patients' and physicians' gaze at each other and artifacts such as electronic health records were coded using a pre-established objective coding scheme. Gaze data were then analyzed using lag sequential methods.

Results: Results showed that there are several eye gaze patterns significantly dependent to each other. All doctor-initiated gaze patterns were followed by patient gaze patterns. Some patient-initiated gaze patterns were also followed by doctor gaze patterns significantly unlike the findings in previous studies. Health information technology appears to contribute to some of the new significant patterns that have emerged. Differences were also found in gaze patterns related to technology that differ from patterns identified in studies with paper charts. Several sequences related to patient-doctor-technology were also significant. Electronic health records affect the patient-physician eye contact dynamic differently than paper charts.

Conclusion: This study identified several patterns of patient-physician interaction with electronic health record systems. Consistent with previous studies, physician initiated gaze is an important driver of the interactions between patient and physician and patient and technology.

Keywords: Communication; Health information technology; Primary care encounter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attention*
  • Communication*
  • Eye Movements*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Videotape Recording
  • Young Adult