I had dinner recently with a pediatrician friend who was dinged on a patient experience survey for not having eye contact. Her response was that the computer was in the wrong place. Not her problem, she argued, but rather an issue of clinic space design. Hmm.
When technology becomes perfect it will respond to us. Until then, we have to work with our technology and within our spaces. Solutions in a situation like this might include:
- Moving the computer
- Finding another room
- Learning to balance screen use with face-to-face dialog.
I’ve never had a complaint about eye contact because I draw like a crazy man in front of a huge white board. When you draw pictures, you’re never faulted for failure to engage. Encopresis managed pictionary-style is hard to forget.
And parents almost universally take pictures of what I draw. Last week I had a mother ask me to actually be in the picture next to my white board. When was the last time you took a picture of your doctor with the content he had created for you? More importantly, when was the last time you took a picture of a doctor who didn’t engage with you?
You get my point.
But here’s what’s key: I spend the first 10-15 minutes of a new patient evaluation getting my data….in front of the screen just like every other provider in the free world. Just like every doctor that people complain about. But I let families know that they’re in for only a few minutes of Q&A with me typing furiously like the counter lady at the airport. But then it’s done. After that it’s mano y mano and eye-to-eye. The most important part.
We choose to be the victims of technology. Or not.
You might be interested in how I structure a patient visit.