Five tips to maximize patient engagement when using an EHR

Many of the benefits of electronic health records (EHRs) are the enhancements they bring to existing workflows. They help ensure safe prescribing, improve the lab ordering experience, support intra-office communication, and improve care coordination. Yet the greatest benefit may be more time for care: nearly 4 out of 5 providers found using an EHR boosted the efficiency of their practice.

With more time comes more opportunities for increasing patient engagement, especially during the patient visit when you’re charting in your EHR. Patients are also widely accepting of using an EHR during the visit: More than 80% of patients reported that they would not be bothered by the use of either a tablet, laptop or desktop computer during an exam in a recent study.

How can you make the most out of having a computer during a visit in order to empower patients to improve their health? Here are five tips from Practice Fusion providers for maximizing patient engagement while using an EHR:

  1. Make eye contact. Making eye contact with your patients is essential. It conveys that you’re interested in the conversation and paying attention, which builds trust. When you break eye contact or frequently look away, it can be perceived that you’re distracted or trying to conceal your feelings.
  2. Be cognizant when you type. Engage with your patients as you type. Let them know as you are typing that you are documenting their complaints and exam findings on the spot so they don’t have to worry about your memory of events later in a dictation. Occasionally read aloud what you are typing to keep patients involved and give them the ability to agree or apply a correction.
  3. Repeat back to the patient. When people are anxious or excited, they may accelerate their rate of speech. It can be difficult to document everything in these situations. Repeat back to the patient what you entered in the EHR if you’re not sure of something — you’ll let your patient know that you’re actively listening, and it also verifies that the information entered is correct.
  4. Focus on posture and body language. Good body language sends a signal that you are actively listening to your patient. If you are facing your computer and not your patient it can convey that you aren’t paying attention to them. Consider angling your body towards your patient as you take notes.
  5. Eliminate barriers between you and your patient. If you’re using a desktop computer, it can act as a physical barrier between you and your patient, depending on how it’s positioned. Additionally, a computer positioned in the corner of the exam room can make creating eye contact with your patient difficult. Consider using a small laptop, tablet, or mobile working station. This prevents your computer from blocking your field of vision and allows you to face your patient no matter where they’re sitting.