I've had the privilege and opportunity to work in a medical group which has deployed the world's largest civilian electronic medical record and have been using it since the spring of 2006. I don't see the issue quite as much as Dr. Ofri did. It is possible that she examined patients in her office with a desk rather than an examination room.
If placed and mounted correctly in the exam room, the computer actually is an asset and can improve the doctor patient relationship. It is part of the office visit. The flat screen monitor can be rotated to begin a meaningful dialogue between the patient and I. We review the lab work together as well as the trends. Look at xrays. Who needs anatomy flip charts when I can google any image instantly? Patient friendly information to reinforce our discussion is a click away.
The computer can certainly enhance the doctor patient visit. Like any skill, unless we deliberately practice in getting better, we will simply find the new method awkward and unnatural.
Although these patients/families expressed strong interest in e-mailing, secure Web messaging was less convenient than using the phone, too technically cumbersome, lacked a personal touch, and was used only by a handful of patients.
So doctors could conclude that patients really don't want to email their doctor. What a relief because the majority of patients still do not have the option to do so and doctors don't really want to do it. (Though there could be compelling business reasons not to offer email to patients even if the doctors were technically savvy enough to offer it).
So what does this all mean? As doctors we need to change our mindset and look at these changes as opportunities for the medical field to provide care that is increasingly worry-free, hassle-free, and personalized.
The future is here. That means embracing the computer.