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Kaiser Permanente Research: Computers in Exam Room Help Patient and Doctor Communicate

Computers and Communication

Patients’ satisfaction with doctors’ care higher after introduction of computers

Oakland, CA and Portland, OR June 5, 2005—Researchers with Kaiser Permanente find patients are more satisfied with their care and communicate better with their doctors when computers are available in examination rooms. The study is published in the June 6th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Compared with visits prior to installation of the computer, overall patient satisfaction, communication about medical issues, and patient understanding about their condition all improved after the computer introduction. Patients also felt that their doctors were more familiar with their personal medical history and their lives.

“Patients were more satisfied with their doctors after computers were installed in exam rooms,” says lead author John Hsu, MD, of Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research in Oakland, California. “The patients felt their doctor was more familiar with their medical history. Patients also felt more involved in decisions about their care and had a better understanding of diagnoses and treatments.”

Dr. Hsu and his colleagues in Kaiser Permanente’s Northwest region conducted a longitudinal study of 313 patients and their 8 physicians, including clinic visits before computers were available in the exam room, and visits one month and seven months after the introduction.

After the introduction of computers:
• 63% of patients reported excellent overall satisfaction, from 55%
• 61% reported excellent satisfaction with discussions about their treatments, from 47%
• 57% reported excellent understanding of their treatments, from 46%
• 59% reported their doctor’s being very familiar with their lives, from 48%
• 50% reported their doctor’s being very familiar with their medical history, from 42%
“When a physician is familiar with computers, and uses the technology to share information with patients, the doctor-patient relationship improves in many ways,” says Dr. Hsu. “Patients feel more involved, understand their diagnoses better, and are happier with their care.”

The study used questionnaires filled out by both the patient and the physician at three different visits to evaluate what effect a computer terminal might have when the physician uses it during an exam

Kaiser Permanente is America’s leading integrated health plan. Founded in 1945, it is a not-for-profit, group practice prepayment program with headquarters in Oakland, California. Kaiser Permanente serves the health care needs of 8.2 million members in 9 states and the District of Columbia. Today it encompasses the not-for-profit Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and their subsidiaries, and the for-profit Permanente Medical Groups.

Nationwide, Kaiser Permanente includes approximately 138,000 technical, administrative and clerical employees and caregivers, and more than 11,000 physicians representing all specialties.

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