Intended for healthcare professionals

Practice Observed

Do personal computers make doctors less personal?

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988; 296 doi: (Published 21 May 1988) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988;296:1446
  1. Jan-Joost Rethans,
  2. Paul Höppener,
  3. George Wolfs,
  4. Jos Diederiks


    Ten months after the installation of a computer in a general practice surgery a postal survey (piloted questionnaire) was sent to 390 patients. The patients' views of their relationship with their doctor after the computer was introduced were compared with their view of their relationship before the installation of the computer. More than 96% of the patients (n=263) stated that contact with their doctor was as easy and as personal as before. Most stated that the computer did not influence the duration of the consultation. Eighty one patients (30%) stated, however, that they thought that their privacy was reduced.

    Unlike studies of patients' attitudes performed before any actual experience of use of a computer in general practice, this study found that patients have little difficulty in accepting the presence of a computer in the consultation room. Nevertheless, doctors should inform their patients about any connections between their computer and other, external computers to allay fears about a decrease in privacy.