Promoting Quality Face-to-Face Communication during Ophthalmology Encounters in the Electronic Health Record Era

Sally L. Baxter, Helena E. Gali, Michael F. Chiang, Michelle R. Hribar, Lucila Ohno-Machado, Robert El-Kareh, Abigail E. Huang, Heather E. Chen, Andrew S. Camp, Don O. Kikkawa, Bobby S. Korn, Jeffrey E. Lee, Christopher A. Longhurst, Marlene Millen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective To evaluate informatics-enabled quality improvement (QI) strategies for promoting time spent on face-to-face communication between ophthalmologists and patients. Methods This prospective study involved deploying QI strategies during implementation of an enterprise-wide vendor electronic health record (EHR) in an outpatient academic ophthalmology department. Strategies included developing single sign-on capabilities, activating mobile- and tablet-based applications, EHR personalization training, creating novel workflows for team-based orders, and promoting problem-based charting to reduce documentation burden. Timing data were collected during 648 outpatient encounters. Outcomes included total time spent by the attending ophthalmologist on the patient, time spent on documentation, time spent on examination, and time spent talking with the patient. Metrics related to documentation efficiency, use of personalization features, use of team-based orders, and note length were also measured from the EHR efficiency portal and compared with averages for ophthalmologists nationwide using the same EHR. Results Time spent on exclusive face-to-face communication with patients initially decreased with EHR implementation (2.9 to 2.3 minutes, p = 0.005) but returned to the paper baseline by 6 months (2.8 minutes, p = 0.99). Observed participants outperformed national averages of ophthalmologists using the same vendor system on documentation time per appointment, number of customized note templates, number of customized order lists, utilization of team-based orders, note length, and time spent after-hours on EHR use. Conclusion Informatics-enabled QI interventions can promote patient-centeredness and face-to-face communication in high-volume outpatient ophthalmology encounters. By employing an array of interventions, time spent exclusively talking with the patient returned to levels equivalent to paper charts by 6 months after EHR implementation. This was achieved without requiring EHR redesign, use of scribes, or excessive after-hours work. Documentation efficiency can be achieved using interventions promoting personalization and team-based workflows. Given their efficacy in preserving face-to-face physician-patient interactions, these strategies may help alleviate risk of physician burnout.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)130-141
Number of pages12
JournalApplied Clinical Informatics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • communication
  • electronic health records
  • informatics
  • ophthalmology
  • quality improvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Information Management


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