Effects of exam room EHR use on doctor-patient communication: a systematic literature review

Inform Prim Care. 2013;21(1):30-9. doi: 10.14236/jhi.v21i1.37.


Background: High levels of funding have been invested in health information technologies, especially electronic health records (EHRs), in an effect to coordinate and organize patient health data. However, the effect of EHRs in the exam room on doctor-patient communication has not been sufficiently explored. Objective The purpose of this systematic review was to determine how physician use of EHRs in medical consultations affects doctor-patient communication, both in terms of patient perceptions and actual physician behaviours.

Method: The reviewer conducted a comprehensive online database search in March 2013 of EMBASE, MEDLINE, and SCOPUS, using a combination of synonyms of the terms "patient", "doctor", "communication", and "EHR" or "computing". For inclusion in this review, articles had to be published in English, take place in an outpatient setting and demonstrate an empirical investigation into whether EHR affects doctor-patient communication. The reviewer then analysed 13 articles that met the inclusion criteria.

Results: Studies showed EHR use encouraged biomedical questioning of the patient, and encouraged patient-led questioning and doctor-led information provision. EHR-related behaviours such as keyboarding and screen gaze impaired relationships with patients, by reducing eye contact, rapport, and provision of emotional support. EHRs negatively affected physician-led patient-centred communication. Computer use may have amplified existing physician behaviours regarding medical record use.

Conclusion: We noted both positive and negative effects of EHR use. This review highlights the need for increased EHR-specific communication training to mitigate adverse effects and for continued acknowledgement of patient perspectives.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Electronic Health Records*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Examination
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians' Offices