We want technology to connect and strengthen our interactions, not get in the way of them. Using an iPad EMR allows mobility and makes electronic charting more efficient, but many providers find interacting with tablets while doing a patient exam a challenge.

To ensure relationship building—and technology efficiency—here are a few tips to help:

1. Rehearse Your Patient Interactions and Question Set

Begin with reviewing patient history before entering the exam room. Start the conversation with your patient’s complaint and questions first. Practice on test patients or staff if needed. A proper greeting and shown concern at the very beginning of the visit sets the first impression. Slow down before going directly into your questions. But have your routine set of questions ready, and know what EMR screens you need to document.

2. Have Positive Body Language while Documenting

Small details matter the most to those hurting. The simple human behavior of eye contact helps patients feel like you are interacting with them. Face your body towards the patients, or at minimum with your side to the patient. Never turn your back, unless necessary. Hold eye contact consistently while talking, and continue talking while documenting on the tablet (even if looking away). Use silence in conversation purposely—and sparingly.

3. Allow Patients to View Documentation

Show your patients what you are doing on the iPad when documenting. Display the screen directly in front of them, and review questions together if you feel comfortable doing that. Engagement like “I’ll be sending your prescription to this pharmacy, is that correct?” help patients get a sense of involvement—and they will feel less detached from the exam and technology.

4. Limit Excessive Typing and Use Templates

If your patient’s chart needs more detail, consider waiting to do the typing outside the exam room. Templates in iPad EMRs are meant to save time, and if configured to the provider’s preference, will make visits quicker. If further typing is needed, connect the tablet to a wireless, Bluetooth keyboard to type.

5. Choose iPad EMR Use per Staff Role

Every practice is different, as is each provider. Consider which staff roles are best suited to using tablets, versus laptops or desktops. Mobile documentation by staff role differs according to preference and clinic needs. There is no set rule that certain staff do better with tablets than others; it all depends on workflow. Technology use can only be as efficient as the user who chooses to adopt it. Match technology tools to those who use them best.


Remember, digital documentation shows you’re accepting of new healthcare standards. iPads and tablets are as much a part of daily lives as a mobile phone; people accept and are beginning to expect current technology when visiting their doctors. In the right hands, an iPad EMR enhances the patient-provider relationship.

What advice do you have for other providers while using a tablet EMR in the exam room?

This resource was first published prior to the 2019 merger between DocuTAP and Practice Velocity. The content reflects our legacy brands.