Study Taps Eye Tracking Device To Assess How Doctors View EHRs

Physicians when reading electronic health records focus primarily on the "impression and plan" section and spend relatively little time on other sections, according to a new study published in the journal Applied Clinical Informatics, Clinical Innovation & Technology reports.

Study Details

For the study, researchers from Massachusetts-based Baystate Health and University of Massachusetts-Amherst's College of Engineering analyzed how physicians distribute their visual attention when reviewing electronic notes (Pedulli, Clinical Innovation & Technology, 4/24).

The researchers first used an eye-tracking device to measure the visual attention patterns of 10 hospitalists as they read three electronic notes, examining:

  • The physicians' reading rates; and
  • The sections of the electronic notes that they read.

The researchers then compared that data with information from simulated verbal handoffs for each electronic note and physician debriefing interviews (Brown et al., Applied Clinical Informatics, 2014).

Study Findings

The study found that physicians spent the majority of their reading time on the "impression and plan" part of the electronic notes and read through that section very slowly.

In comparison, physicians read very quickly through other sections of the electronic notes, even sections including:

  • Laboratory results;
  • Medication profiles; and
  • Vital signs.

Overall, the researchers determined that just 9% of the content in the physicians' verbal handoff used information included in a section other than the "impression and plan" part.

The researchers concluded, "Optimizing the design of electronic notes may include rethinking the amount and format of imported patient data as this data appears to largely be ignored" (Clinical Innovation & Technology, 4/24).


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