The transition to electronic health records can bring some concerns for healthcare providers, including workflow, training, privacy and security. But one of the most important issues is communication, and many clinicians are concerned that using a computer with a patient will hinder communication.

"Communication is the biggest part of my relationship with a patient. If I'm not looking at the patient, then he/she may feel that I'm not paying attention to their comments, questions and concerns," said Lester G. Peters, an optometrist who practices in Richmond, Va.

American Family Physician states that some patients feel confused when a clinician is looking at the computer without reasoning.

As a patient, I've noticed the challenge and changes in healthcare professionals. I've gone to the same family physician practice for years and always had terrific communication with the doctors. Once EHRs were implemented, that personal communication declined because they had to make sure they recorded the proper information into the computer.

Overall, the change to EHRs is good, but it can also be detrimental to your patients. To overcome communication challenges and make sure your patient has your undivided attention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has provided five communication behaviors (called LEVEL) for the integration of EHRs into your practice.

    Look: Allowing your patient to look at the technological device as you're putting in their information will give the patient a sense of ease because they will know exactly what's going on. "As I go into the exam room, I'm pulling up the patient's records on the computer, so the information pulled up is everything the patient is aware of," Peters said. "No HIPAA violations will be occurring."

    Eye contact: Ensuring that you have continuous eye contact with your patient can be tough. While you're announcing that you're putting information into the technological device, make it a point to ensure that you raise your head or turn back around periodically so that you're not sitting in silence with your patient. "I'm not used to the computer, so I tend to make jokes with my patients about how I'm a slow typist; they usually understand my stress with it as we share a laugh," Peters said.

    Value: EHRs are being implemented throughout the U.S., so it's time you become best friends with it. Consider the technological device as a new tool within your examination; it's your new stethoscope, flashlight, etc. "It's definitely a change because instead of jotting down notes, I have to locate everything in a pull-down box," Peters said. Once you become comfortable with the device in the room, then you'll be able to continue the smooth transition.

    Explanation: Make sure your patients know that you're in the midst of transitioning into the EHR development and that you will have to look away while you are recording all of his/her necessary information. "I make sure to announce what I'm doing while my back is turned to the patient and they're usually understanding about the process," Peters said.

    Log off: Exiting out of the current patient's information is imperative before moving onto your next. It may take a few minutes to make sure all the necessary information is in place before logging off the system. Make sure you state to the patient that you're reviewing the information and exiting off. "As I'm reviewing the patient's information, I'm discussing with him/her what was found during the examination and the solution, if needed," Peters said.

Your patients want to have a close relationship with their healthcare professionals to ensure they're being treated in the best way possible. As you become acquainted with the new EHR system, you'll find yourself working through the system and your patients with ease.

Multitasking can be tough, but practice makes perfect. Just remember that communication is key in any relationship.