Baby Doc’s Screen Time is Out of Control

Dear Mamas,

Our pediatrician’s practice recently switched over to computer charting and it’s driving me nuts! The first experience was a sick visit with my preschooler and we saw a different doctor in the practice — not our regular one. After a quick exam, he spent the rest of the visit typing into his laptop while describing what he found in my son’s throat and the antibiotic he was prescribing.

He never once made eye contact which seemed really weird, but I chalked it up to a different doctor who didn’t know our family.

The next time was the 1-year well visit for my daughter with our regular doc and it was almost the same way! She was a little more chatty during the exam, but as soon as it was finished she began clicking away on her laptop while we talked. It was super distracting for me — and must have been for her, too. I left feeling like we’d never really gotten her full attention after the exam part of the visit.

I’m pretty happy with these doctors otherwise and I don’t really want to switch. After all, this probably is happening everywhere, right? Can I politely ask her to wait until the visit is over before she types her report? What’s the protocol?



What a great question for our times, Sara! We read lots of advice about limiting screen time for the littles, but all too often we forget to apply it to ourselves and the adults in our lives.

It IS rude and distracting when a provider (or anyone) types away, staring at a screen while carrying on a conversation. And it’s even worse when the subject is the health of your precious child! Sadly, it’s a sign of the search for increased efficiency in our health care system that sometimes overshadows the need for personal relationship and communication. Pediatrician friends have shared how conflicted they are about charting electronically during the office visit, but they don’t see an easy way around it.

If only there was a pat answer to a problem that’s only going to get bigger, but  maybe some simple strategies can help:

First, you can absolutely request that your doc hold off until the visit is over. Be honest and explain that it’s distracting for you and interferes with getting your concerns addressed. Approach it in terms of teamwork; you and she are working together to keep your child healthy and her screen time is getting in the way. I bet she’ll see it your way.

If that isn’t effective, try altering your behavior and body language in order to change hers.

Look away when she’s clicking or attending to the screen rather than to you and your child. Don’t respond to her questions or comments as long as she’s entering data, instead wait ’til she stops and makes eye contact before answering. If she’s given you an explanation while typing, pause and say “excuse me”? after she’s finished. This strategy may not work immediately, but stick with it for a few visits. Consider it part of the training process.

When it’s taking her longer to accomplish the goals of the appointment with the intrusion than without it she’s likely to change her style. We call that “extinguishing the undesired behavior” — without her even realizing it!

If all else fails and your frustration leads you to find a new team member, don’t hesitate to ask whether the office procedure is to chart electronically during the visit. Then choose your doctor accordingly.

Hope this helps!

~ The Mamas



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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?

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