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Fam Med. 2005 Apr;37(4):276-81.

Clinician style and examination room computers: a video ethnography.

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  • 1Multnomah County Health Department, Mid-County Health Center, Portland, OR 97236, USA.



The use of computers in medical examination rooms is growing. Advocates of this technology suggest that all family physicians should have and use examination room computers (ERCs) within the near future. This study explored how family physicians incorporate the use of ERCs in their interactions with patients.


This qualitative study involved five family physicians, one family nurse practitioner, and a convenience sample of 29 patients. Data included videotaped visits, clinician interviews, and videotape reviews. The setting was an urban family practice with a 7-year history of viewing electronic medical records. The main outcome measures were themes emergent from videotaped data.


We identified three distinct practice styles that shaped the use of the ERC: informational, interpersonal, and managerial styles. Clinicians with an informational style are guided by their attention to gathering data as prompted by the computer screen. Clinicians with an interpersonal style focus their attention and body language on patients. Clinicians with a managerial style bridge informational and interpersonal styles by alternating their attention in defined intervals between patients and the computer.


Family physicians have varying practice styles that affect the way they use examination room computers during visits with patients.

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