By Mary Gabb

I have a love-hate relationship with technology. I admire the way old-order groups such as the Amish or Mennonites restrict the use of new technologies until their societal effects have been carefully considered and analysed. Yet, rapid uptake of new technology is essential for me to work from a home office, access medical articles when I cannot get to a medical library, and travel for business meetings while still being (at least somewhat) productive.

There is a big push now to use electronic medical records, but how will this work in a medical setting, especially psychiatry? The idea of pouring out my heart and soul to a psychiatrist is intimidating on its own, let alone imagining him or her tapping away on a keyboard as I explain my deepest insecurities.

And yet, when it comes right down to it, patients don’t seem to mind the use of a computer in the doctor’s office/surgery. Am I being oversensitive?

It may be that most patients, when speaking with their physicians, are probably too focused on their own concerns and being able to vocalize them clearly to be worried about the etiquette or awkwardness of computer use.

Kate Casano describes the results of a study among psychiatric patients whose physicians began to incorporate electronic health records into the physician-patient encounter. The results are surprisingly… dispassionate. And as the study authors point out, attention to communication style, interpersonal manner, and computer proficiency are probably bigger players in how well technology is incorporated into such a sensitive setting.